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David Perdue: NYC terror attack proves need to axe green card lottery

WASHINGTON -- Reports that the Uzbek immigrant who carried out Tuesday's terrorist attack in New York City legally received a green card under a U.S. lottery system underscore the need to eliminate the popular federal program, according to Georgia's U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

The freshman Republican said Tuesday's attacks, which left eight dead and 11 injured, put an "exclamation point" on his months-long effort to advance legislation that would overhaul the country's legal immigration system.

"This diversity lottery has been abused. It’s fraudulent, and here’s an example of a guy who came in and is under a green card," Perdue told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. "We didn’t anticipate this, but it certainly heightens the issue and why we’re so focused on it.”

Perdue for months has been pushing his bill, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy, or RAISE Act, that would among other changes eliminate the State Department’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The lottery system selects roughly 50,000 people annually to permanently live in the U.S., or roughly 0.3 percent of applicants to the program.

Supporters tout it for its melting pot ethos -- particularly for admitting often-overlooked immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean -- but critics argue it is susceptible to fraud.

“This is just an example of what we did call out a few months ago that said that the diversity lottery is one of the places where people could get in that we might not want to get in. And here’s a glaring example, a tragic example of that," Perdue said.

The RAISE Act is backed by President Donald Trump, and components of it are reportedly under considerations as Senate Republicans negotiate a legislative compromise to give legal status to so-called Dreamers who came to the U.S. illegally as children. Democrats have so far dismissed the main tenants of Perdue's bill, which is co-authored by Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton.

Trump on Wednesday said the New York attacks show why the country should get "MUCH tougher" on immigration, and told reporters that "we need to get rid of the lottery program as soon as possible"

Trump also singled out Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Twitter for introducing the bill that led to the lottery's creation in the 1990s.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.