WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans oppose the use of a lottery system for giving immigrants permanent U.S. residence, but a majority support allowing immigrants to obtain green cards through sponsorship by U.S. employers, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.
The poll, released on Thursday, found that only 25 percent of Americans support allowing immigrants to obtain U.S. green cards or permanent resident status through a lottery system, while 60 percent oppose it.
The green card lottery, also called the “diversity visa” programme, aims to diversify the U.S. immigrant population by allotting 50,000 immigrant visas each year to citizens of countries that do not send many people to the United States.
The programme has long been criticized by immigration hardliners in Congress, and came under renewed attack by Trump and some Republicans after Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek national who came to the United States on a diversity visa in 2010, was charged in an attack last week in New York City that killed eight people.
Trump has urged Congress to kill the diversity visa lottery, which has drawn fire for being vulnerable to fraud and for posing national security risks. A 2013 bipartisan effort to reform immigration would have done away with the programme, but was killed by the Republican-led House.
The recipients of the visas are chosen randomly by lottery, though they have to go through standard security checks before they are granted permission to enter the United States.
Seventy percent of all adults support allowing foreign spouses of U.S. citizens to obtain green cards, and 61 percent support allowing immigrants to obtain permanent resident status through their work for U.S. businesses.
Though 60 percent of all adults said they opposed allowing immigrants to obtain green cards through a lottery, a smaller percentage, just over half, said they would support a proposal to end the programme.
The Trump administration has targeted both legal and illegal immigration. An April executive order by Trump called for reforming the programme awarding H-1B visas for skilled workers, and the administration has challenged applications for the visas more often than at nearly any point in the Obama era.
Chrystal Wilkins, 54, said she disagreed with ending the green card lottery. Wilkins, a Democrat, is married to a Senegalese immigrant who is now a U.S. citizen. Her husband did not come through the visa lottery but has a friend who did, she said.
“Immigration is good for the country,” said Wilkins, who lives in New York. “People should be allowed to come into the country through a lottery visa.”
Angel Hall, 18, who described herself as a moderate Republican, said she agreed with ending the green card lottery but supported other forms of legal immigration, including employment-based green cards, “because they (immigrants) are coming here to work and be part of our economy.”
“It’s a little bit weird to just randomly pick people,” said Hall, a student in Michigan. “It should be more ordered than the random lottery that it is.”
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,278 adults and has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points.
Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Tom Brown