President Donald Trump makes statements to the press before the start of his Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he wants Congress to eliminate the diversity visa lottery one day after a man who came to the United States under the program killed eight people in New York City.
Trump began Wednesday morning's Cabinet meeting with remarks on the program.
"I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program," he said at the White House. "I am going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program."
Trump said that instead, he'd like a merit-based program, though he offered no details on what that would look like.
Sayfullo Saipov, the man New York City police identified as the suspect in Tuesday's attack in Lower Manhattan, entered the United States under the diversity visa lottery program. Police said they found a note in which Saipov said he carried out the attack in the name of the Islamic State.
Eight people died and several others sustained injuries when Saipov drive a truck into people on a bicycle path.
Saipov immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan. The president said preliminary reports indicate he was "the primary point of contact for 23 people who came in with him."
"And that's not acceptable," Trump said. "So we want to get rid of chain migration, and we've wanted to do that for a long time."
The president said he wants the United States "to get much tougher" and "less politically correct" in its approach to immigration.
"We have to get tough, we have to get smart, we have to do what's right to protect our citizens," he said. "We will never waver in the defense of our beloved country -- ever. And we'll never, ever forget the beautiful lives that have been taken from us."
Congress established the current form of the diversity visa lottery in 1990. It allows up to 50,000 immigrants to obtain permanent resident status from countries with the lowest rates of immigration into the United States over the previous five years. The program seeks to diversify the immigrant population in the United States.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Trump appeared to blame Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York for the diversity visa lottery program.
"The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty," Trump tweeted. "I want merit based."
Schumer said Trump should instead be focusing on funding for anti-terror efforts.
"Pres Trump, instead of politicizing & dividing America which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should bring us together," the senator tweeted.
"President Trump should be focusing on the real solution -- anti-terrorism funding -- which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget."