President Donald Trump was quick to respond to Tuesday’s attack in New York City—which left eight people dead—by saying he would make it tougher to get into the United States.
“I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program,” Trump tweeted in the wake of the attack, which saw a suspect drive a truck into people on a cycle path in lower Manhattan.
For many of Trump’s supporters on social media, the attack, reportedly carried out by 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov, is further evidence of the need for the president’s travel ban to become law.
Trump has on three occasions tried to pass restrictions blocking or limiting immigration to the United States from certain countries: The latest iteration imposes restrictions on citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and on government officials from Venezuela. But in each instance, judges have ordered last-minute freezes on the travel bans coming into effect.
Some accused “liberal judges” of putting political correctness ahead of U.S. national security.
The prominent right-wing commentator and author of In Trump We Trust Ann Coulter went even further:
But to those calling for the travel ban to be implemented, many pointed out that it would not have stopped the suspected attacker: Uzbekistan has not been included on any version of Trump’s proposed travel ban.
The central Asian country has had its own problems with Islamist terrorism. A recent report by the Soufan Group estimated that more than 1,500 Uzbek nationals have traveled to Iraq and Syria as would-be foreign fighters for ISIS. The report also stated that former Soviet republics—of which Uzbekistan is one—have been the biggest regional source of foreign fighters in ISIS.
People from Uzbekistan have also been implicated in militant attacks around the world. A bombing on the St. Petersburg metro system in April that killed 15 people was carried out by Akbarzhon Jalilov, an ethnic Uzbek who was born in Kyrgyzstan. Abdulkadir Masharipov, who is suspected of shooting dead 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve in an ISIS-claimed attack, was born in Uzbekistan.
While Trump’s travel ban may not have prevented the Manhattan attack, Saipov reportedly entered the United States under a visa program that the U.S. presidentwants to end. ABC New York reported that Saipov was awarded a permanent resident visa in 2010 under the Diversity Immigrant Program, a lottery that makes 50,000 green cards available to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
The lottery is intended to diversify the immigrant population in the United States. But Congress has tried to end it five times since 2007, including with the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act that came before the Senate in February. The White House has supported the RAISE Act and called the diversity visa lottery “outdated” and said it “serves questionable economic and humanitarian interests.”