Weekly Columns

The bombing at New York City’s Port Authority is the second terrorist attack in the Big Apple in as many months. These are reminders that our homeland continues to be the target of violence by individuals who are intent on threatening our nation and its ideals. While the methods our enemies use continue to change, we must ensure our national security officials are able to stay one step ahead of these evolving dangers.

Our national security is the number one responsibility of the federal government. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, I’m pushing for the necessary resources to meet the needs of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and advocating for policies that safeguard American soil.

The recent attacks make it clear that we need to improve our immigration policies to reflect the fact that we face very real threats. That begins with eliminating the Diversity Visa program. This lottery system is based on random chance rather than merit-based criteria which allows citizens of certain countries to attain permanent resident status in the U.S.

This is how Uzbekistan native Sayfullo Saipov, accused of attacking innocent people on a New York City bicycle path on Halloween, legally entered our country. The alleged terrorist who attacked the New York Port Authority six weeks later, Akayed Ullah, was also a beneficiary of the Diversity Visa program. He was permitted to enter the U.S. in 2011 because a relative, who won a visa through the lottery, sponsored family to immigrate to the country through a process known as chain migration. 

A 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report raised concerns about potential security risks because of the Diversity Visa program’s vulnerability to fraud. The State Department’s Office of Inspector General reported in 2013 about an investigation that “produced a detailed portrait of [a] pervasive and sophisticated fraud scheme" affecting the program in Ukraine.

The alarms have been sounding for more than a decade, but the recent terror attacks put the problems with this program in the spotlight. It’s clear that we must end this program. 

Earlier this month, the Senate approved confirmation of Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She called the program “misguided” during a press conference the day after the latest New York attack and agrees that ending it and modifying chain migration will lead to improved national security. 

I’m pleased to support Secretary Nielsen and President Trump in their call to reform our immigration policies so that we can prohibit individuals who are intent on attacking the United States from entering our country. 

Americans have stood strong in the face of terrorism and we will continue to be resilient. The terrorists will not win, but that won’t keep them from trying to attack us and our way of life. Terrorists groups like ISIS will continue to radicalize supporters and recruit within our borders. We must remain vigilant and take the necessary measures to protect our homeland.