Blaming green card system for NY attack ‘missing the mark’

Bruce Morrison responds to proposal by Trump to abolish scheme over Uzbek suspect

A police officer secures an area where flowers are left near the site of a terror attack in New York on the previous day. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

A police officer secures an area where flowers are left near the site of a terror attack in New York on the previous day. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty


Blaming the immigration programme for the terror attack in New York this week is ‘missing the mark’, immigration lawyer and former congressman Bruce Morrison has said.

He was speaking in response to the proposal by US president Donald Trump to abolish the green card lottery scheme, as the Trump administration continues its clampdown on immigration into the United States.

Revelations that the Uzbek suspect in Tuesday’s attack which killed eight in New York entered the United States on the visa programme prompted Mr Trump to call for the abolition of the visa lottery system on Wednesday.

The green card lottery system is offered to 50,000 people from 160 countries every year.The visas are distributed on a regional basis with countries that send fewer immigrants receiving more diversity visas.

The problem is not the immigration lottery programme, the individual involved in this week’s attack was radicalised in the United States, Mr Morrison told Newstalk Breakfast.

Like any Green Card application, participants in the immigration lottery programme most undergo in depth checks and an interview process, said Mr Morrison.

“With any immigration programme there is a risk of error. No system in perfect.

“Blaming the problem on immigration is trying to shift the problem. To blame the whole programme is to miss the mark.

“The president always sees an opportunity to change the subject to something he prefers. It’s an unfortunate characteristic and the reason why he’s such a lousy leader.”

Mr Morrison added that he did not think there would be any overhaul of the immigration system during Mr Trump’s term in office. There are more likely to be specific reforms such as the case of Dreamers, young people brought to the US by their parents.

“Comprehensive reform couldn’t happen while Obama was in power, so it’s unlikely while Trump is in power.” Bruce Morrison is known for being behind the Morrison Visas, which resulted from the Immigration Reform Act of 1990, and included tens of thousands of visas for Irish people.

Irish participants

The number of Irish who participate in the scheme is relatively low – approximately 160 people are awarded to Irish citizens each year, less than 1 per cent of the total allocated across the world. This in turn represents about 10 per cent of the 1,600 or so green cards which are awarded to Irish people each year, through different mechanisms, by the United States.

Irish officials in Washington and US special envoy John Deasy have been pressing for a more merit-based system for Irish immigrants into the United States. In particular, a move is under way to secure the E3 visa that is offered to Australians, for Irish citizens, with efforts afoot to potentially attach a provision to upcoming immigration legislation that could be published as early as March.

Hire American

Meanwhile a Chicago based immigration lawyer claims that Irish clients applying to work in the US, have been told “go tell your boss to hire an American worker.”

Irish-born Fiona McEntee told RTE’s Morning Ireland that the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order, which was passed last February, is having a negative impact.

“They’re basically implementing certain requirements into visa applications that are not there. There’s no test of the labour market, so there’s no recruitment element to a lot of these non immigrant visas - an E2 or an Irish entrepreneur who would go set up a business, we’re seeing it have really negative impacts all across - especially in the immigration context.”

Ms McEntee pointed out that President Trump cannot unilaterally scrap the current immigration visa lottery scheme. “Any change would require congressional action, he can’t with the sign of a pen just change it.

“There have been attempts to change the system, the diversity visa programme has been brought up, with regards to immigration reform on a broader level, for many years.

“From point of view of immigration attorneys, people who benefit from the programme, this rhetoric is just part of the broader anti immigrant rhetoric we’re hearing from this administration.

“Obviously there is a need for people with skills, as well, there’s deficits in the US immigration system that would leave a lot of qualified immigrants ineligible, or the visas are just not there for them. I don’t think we should change that to the detriment of the family based immigration system.

“What they’re talking about now is scrapping the family based sponsorship that would have a really big impact on a lot of Irish, dual Irish citizens who are based there, who would like to sponsor their immediate family.

“It’s not a free for all, it’s not for every relative under the sun, it’s for your parents or your siblings, that’s as far removed, as far as it can go.”

Ms McEntee said that the green card system had levelled the playing field. “The idea was that it would give people from countries that did not have a high incidence of immigration, an opportunity to come to the States.

“People are there for the most part to make a better life for themselves and for their children. A lot of the statistics about entrepreneurs and employment creation really supports that American dream. The positive impact that immigrants can have on the US.”

She said that her practice has been much busier since Mr Trump came to office, “not necessarily for the right reasons, we’re seeing a lot of enforcement in terms of deportation, we do a lot of business immigration - that’s my primary of practice.”