Trump blames New York terror attack on soft immigration policy promoted by Democrat leader Schumer

US President Donald Trump singled out Senator Chuck Schumer (right), the state's senior lawmaker and the party's leader, in the upper chamber. PHOTO: EPA-EFE, AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (Nov 1) essentially blamed the terrorist attack in New York City on what he characterised as soft immigration policies promoted by Democrats, singling out Senator Chuck Schumer, the state's senior lawmaker and the party's leader in the upper chamber.

"The terrorist came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Programme', a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

He made clear that he was getting his information from Fox News, as he often does in the morning.

"We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems," he wrote. "We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). @foxandfriends."

Eight people were killed and 11 were injured when a driver rammed a pickup truck down a bicycle path in Manhattan on Tuesday in what authorities called the deadliest terrorist attack in the city since Sept 11, 2001.

The driver, who shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), was shot by a police officer and was in critical condition on Tuesday night. The suspect was identified as Sayfullo Saipov, who came to the United States in 2010 and had a green card that permitted permanent legal residency.

Mr Trump appeared to be referring to a policy that creates a class of immigrants called "diversity immigrants" from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

About 50,000 diversity visas are distributed each year among six geographic regions, and no single country receives more than 7 per cent of the available visas in one year, according to the State Department website.

The programme has been a target of conservatives, who proposed eliminating it in legislation endorsed by Mr Trump that would crack down on legal immigration.

The legislation would slash legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of US citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.

Whether Saipov actually came into the country through the diversity visa programme was not immediately confirmed by government officials, but conservative media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart News quickly blamed the programme and pointed the finger at Mr Schumer.

They pointed to a Bill he sponsored in 1990 that was absorbed into broader immigration legislation passed on bipartisan votes and signed into law by a Republican president, Mr George H.W. Bush.

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