National Security

Nearly Two-Thirds Of Uzbek Immigrants Come To US Through Diversity Visa

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Uzbek immigrant who killed eight people in an ISIS-inspired terror attack in New York City was a beneficiary of the Diversity Visa program, a lottery system that awards green cards to people from countries with historically low levels of immigration to the U.S.

Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old attacker, arrived from Uzbekistan in 2010, one of 3,356 Uzbeks who were given legal permanent residence through the program that year. As it turns out, that year was not an anomaly. The Diversity Visa program consistently awards more green cards to Uzbeks than nearly every other nationality in the world.

In 2015, the last year for which green card data is available, a significant majority of all Uzbek immigrants came to the U.S. on diversity visas. There were 2,524 lottery visas or adjustments of status under the diversity immigrant category that year, according to State Department records. Overall, 3,977 green cards went to people from Uzbekistan, meaning that 63 percent of all Uzbek immigrants came through the diversity visa program.

Not only is the share of Uzbek immigrants on diversity visas proportionately high, but the country consistently ranks as one of the heaviest users of the program. In 2015, Uzbekistan accounted for the the fifth-highest number of diversity visas of any country in the world, and by far the most in the Europe geographical category. (The State Department divides diversity visas into six geographical divisions. The Europe category includes some countries that are actually located in Asia.)

In the 10-year period between Fy2007-FY2016, Uzbekistan averaged about 2,700 diversity visas per year, one of the highest averages for any country regardless of geographical category.

The high concentration of Uzbeks in the Diversity Visa program has raised concerns among immigration hawks that a random lottery system invites unnecessary immigration from terror-prone countries. Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said Monday that the diversity visa “increases the size of precisely those haystacks where the terrorist needle is most likely to be found.”

“From a security standpoint, the program admits a disproportionate share of immigrants from terrorist breeding grounds, and creates new migration networks from those places where none existed before,” Krikorian wrote in a blog post.

As The Daily Caller News Foundation reported Monday, the State Department itself believes Uzbek nationals are particularly prone to radicalization while living abroad. In a 2016 country report on terrorism, the department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism cited U.S.-commissioned research that found “Uzbeks are most likely to radicalize while working as migrants abroad.”

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