Immigrants defend lottery system president wants to eliminate

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An immigration program that has been around for more than two decades and helped tens of thousands of people into the U.S. is under fire from the White House following the terror attack in New York.

The Diversity Lottery Program was created in 1995 to try to mix up the melting pot by offering access to visas to people living in countries with low immigration rates.

The program helped Julian Hoxhulka, who works at New York New York Pizza in South Tampa, get into the country 17 years ago.

"A lot of people that come in here through this program, all they ask is a chance," he said, adding he's had to work several different jobs as he became a productive American citizen. "A lot of people that I know that come through this program work very hard [and] are very hard workers."

But the program is now at the center of a nationwide debate after a man drove a rental truck onto a bike path in Manhattan, plowing into a crowd, killing eight people and injuring several others.

Investigators have since learned the terror suspect entered the U.S. through the Diversity Lottery.

"We want to immediately work with Congress on the Diversity Lottery Program on terminating it, getting rid of it," President Trump told lawmakers and reporters. "We want a merit-based program, where people come into our country based on merit... We have to get much tougher, we have to get much smarter."

An immigration attorney in Tampa said there the current program includes intense vetting.

"You still are definitely going through all of the security screenings, background checks that anybody that comes through the United States is," Daniela Hogue told FOX 13.

The program also includes education, employment, and medical requirements.

Hoxhulka said when his name came up in the lottery, he still had to pass rigorous vetting before he was able to get his visa. He has a different view of the program than President Trump.

"There's a bad apple here and there," Hoxhulka said. "This person came through that program, but there is many thousands of people that come that benefited from this program and the country from them doing what they're supposed to do."

Several Republican lawmakers have since voiced their support for the president's call to scrap the program. Details of a merit-based system have not been revealed.