Off the Cuff: February 2010

YOU ALL KNOW how much I love diversity and multiculturalism.

But just listen to this one.

The federal government has a program — it’s called the “Diversity Visa Program” — the purpose of which is to make sure all sorts of people are allowed to come to America from all sorts of countries. This program has become an important part of our overwhelming need, in America, to be diverse and multicultural. This means we should not pick and choose whom we allow in. We invite all comers to the United States no matter how uneducated or unskilled, or the fact that they may have grown up in a place that is a font of hatred for what this country stands for; we ignore the destructive thoughts they might secretly harbor. The message hasn’t changed: Our door is open, with few, if any, questions asked.

Think I’m exaggerating? Then take a look at a bit of “immigration pork” that Congress jammed down our throats in the early ’90s. The Diversity Visa Program distributes about 50,000 visas a year, assigned through a lottery, by a computer in Kentucky, in order to promote emigration from countries that aren’t sending enough of their indigent, uneducated and criminal elements across our borders. Included on the State Department’s list of visa handouts this year are the four countries our government considers state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. Another country highlighted as underserved by our national welcome wagon is Yemen. We’ve invited 72 Yemen nationals in for a visit this year. Perhaps some of them would like to go for an airplane ride.

Of course, the State Department makes noise about how everybody entering the country is properly vetted. But in the wake of how close we came to an airline disaster on Christmas Day, when it has become increasingly apparent that we have no sense of urgency or crisis when it comes to terrorism, it’s ludicrous to believe we can exact strict controls on emigrants from countries where terrorist groups plot in safety.

A State Department official defended the Diversity Visa Program to Fox News this way: “It is a sad reality that all visa categories encounter sham marriages, suspect identities, fraudulent documents, use of agents and unlikely stories.” Yet we’re supposed to believe that the government invokes an “impressive array” of strategies to combat fraud. Sure it does. That’s how the spouse of a diversity lottery winner was able to kill two people at a ticket counter in the L.A. airport back in 2002, a shooting spree the government admitted was terrorism.

What’s more, the program was a sham to start with, crafted back in the late ’80s by Senator Ted Kennedy and other prominent Irish-American, and Italian–American, lawmakers as a way to get more emigrants from Ireland and Italy into America. (Visas issued to nationals from Western Europe were restricted starting in 1965. I suppose this was because we were already considered too Eurocentric.) According to Anne Law, a professor of political science at DePaul University cited by Fox News, “diversity rhetoric” was a handy tool: “They were trying to tap into multiculturalism, so they thought, ‘Let’s jump on that bandwagon.’” According to government officials, the Irish got 40 percent of the program’s visas in its first few years.

Two things frighten me in light of the underwear bomber episode on Christmas Day. One is what we’ve all heard about, how the dots weren’t connected, how he should never have been allowed to board a plane in Amsterdam bound for the United States. The other problem — and, frankly, this is much worse — is how we continue to believe America must not sacrifice openness and sensitivity and, God forbid, diversity in the name of securing our country. Americans have long been accused of naïveté, of not understanding how the rest of the world works. We’re now living up to that.