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Friday 23 February 2018

Donald Trump vows to end green-card lottery system after New York vehicle attack

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Catherine Lucey and Zeke Miller

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged tougher immigration measures based on "merit" after the deadly vehicle attack in New York City.

Mr Trump, who referred to the suspect as an "animal", noted during a Cabinet meeting that the driver in Tuesday's attack entered the country through the diversity visa lottery programme and called on Congress to "immediately" begin working to eliminate the programme, which applies to countries with low rates of immigration to the US.

Mr Trump added: "We have to get much tougher, much smarter, and less politically correct."

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Trump called the visa programme "a Chuck Schumer beauty", a reference to the Senate's Democratic leader.

Mr Schumer fired back from the Senate floor, accusing Mr Trump of "politicising" the tragedy.

Officials said the attacker is an immigrant from Uzbekistan who came to the United States legally in 2010.

Mr Trump has backed legislation that would curb legal immigration and shift the nation toward a system that would place an emphasis on merit and skills over family ties.

The comments followed Mr Trump's Tuesday night statement that he had ordered the Department of Homeland Security "to step up our already extreme vetting program".

Mr Trump's policy entails more stringent investigative measures intended to identify would-be immigrants who may sympathise with extremists or pose a national security risk to the United States.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump proposed a total ban on Muslim immigration to the US before embracing "extreme vetting".

Mr Trump's efforts to block immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries have been tied up in federal courts.

The diversity visa programme provides up to 50,000 visas annually by lottery.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or meet work experience requirements.

It was created as part of a bipartisan immigration bill introduced by the late senator Ted Kennedy and signed into law by Republican president George H.W. Bush in 1990.

Mr Schumer, a New York Democrat who was a member of the House of Representatives at the time, proposed a programme for "diversity immigrants" in a bill he offered earlier that year.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Mr Schumer said he has "always believed that immigration is good for America".

He also criticised Mr Trump for "politicising" the deadly attack, comparing his response to President George. W. Bush's after 9/11.

"President Trump, where is your leadership?" Mr Schumer asked.

"The contrast between President Bush's actions after 9/11 and President Trump's actions this morning could not be starker."

He said Mr Trump actually had proposed cutting anti-terrorism funding in his most recent budget.

"I'm calling on President Trump to rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding immediately," Mr Schumer said.

Press Association

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