Manhattan Terror Attack Highlights What’s Wrong with U.S. Immigration Policy

Last Tuesday, 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov killed eight people after yelling “Allahu akhbar” and mowing a van into a crowd of pedestrians in Manhattan. The New York City Police deemed it a terrorist attack.

According to ABC New York, Saipov entered the United States in 2010 from Uzbekistan on a “Diversity Visa.” Following his entrance to the United States, 23 of Saipov’s family members used him as their “primary contact” to enter the United States.

The U.S. gives out 50,000 Diversity Visas every year via the Diversity Visa Lottery. The Diversity Visa Lottery, which began in 1995, does not require foreigners to obtain a sponsor, and it only requires a high school diploma and two years of recent work experience to apply. The visa lottery program is unique in that it does not prioritize skill, family ties, or humanitarian need. So what’s the point of this lottery?

As Pew Research explains, the aim of the program is to “diversify the U.S. immigrant population by granting visas to underrepresented nations.” Or as Maria Sachcheti at the Washington Post puts it, its aim is to “mix up the nation’s melting pot.”

In other words, the argument for the Diversity Visa Lottery can be boiled down to the idea of America being a multicultural “melting pot” and to the commonly-used trope of “diversity is our greatest strength.” But is diversity really our greatest strength?


For an answer to this question we should turn to social science.

The first researcher to really delve into the effects of ethnic diversity, and to do so publicly, was Harvard University Professor Robert Putnam. Dr. Putnam, who is a liberal, was dismayed to find that “in the presence of diversity we hunker down, we act like turtles.” He found that diversity reduced social cohesion – meaning that individuals were less likely to vote, participate in social organizations, volunteer, give to charity, trust each other, and so on.

“The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching,” he explained.

Dr. Putnam’s study wasn’t the only one to look into the effect of ethnic diversity on social trust and cohesion – not by a long shot. There have been a plethora of studies examining this very topic and virtually all of them have come to the same conclusion.

For example, a study published in Social Psychology Quarterly confirmed Dr. Putnam’s finding that increased ethnic diversity is correlated with reduced social trust. Another study published in Social Forces found that immigration-related diversity negatively impacts social trust in Europe. Other studies have shown this to be the case in the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, Germany, and elsewhere. A study published in European Sociological Review found that the link between diversity and reduced social cohesion was causal. Another study, this time in Journal of Peace Research, showed that violence and conflict are mostly caused by ethnic and religious diversity. Other studies have linked greater diversity with feelings of social isolation, vandalism and littering, crime rates, and decreased employment prospects – among other things.

Point being this is settled science: ethnic and cultural diversity are unequivocally bad. Diversity erodes social cohesion and trust, leading to a number of other societal problems ranging from worse job prospects to increased violence and littering.

So in examining the effect that the Diversity Visa Lottery has on America, we should see how it impacts our diversity overall. We should ask ourselves whether the immigrants we accept through the program are ethnically similar to Americans, likely to assimilate to American culture, and likely to contribute to American society.

The latest available data shows that the top ten countries of origin for the Diversity Visa Lottery are: Cameroon, Liberia, Iran, Nepal, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Russia. Only two of these countries, Russia and Ukraine, could be considered ethnically similar to America – but because they practice an Eastern Slavic culture, they speak a Cyrillic-Slavic language, and their Orthodox Christian faith is Eastern (as opposed to Western Christian–the Protestantism and Catholicism that dominate America and Western Europe), there is ample reason to doubt their ability to assimilate to American culture.


Leaving the question of ethnicity, culture, language, and religion aside–another important factor to consider when accepting immigrants is their IQ. Research shows that IQ is strongly correlated with economic success, job performance, educational attainment, and crime rates. Even the U.S. government recognizes the importance of IQ: the military restricts admissions to those with an IQ of about 85 or higher.

From this we can deduce that the average IQ of immigrants coming into our country is a good predictor of whether they will be successful and contribute to our society–or whether they’ll burden society by committing crimes and becoming welfare recipients.

Also, it’s reasonable to assume that IQ is also a solid predictor of how easily immigrants will assimilate to American culture: more intelligent immigrants will presumably be better able to learn English and our Anglo-Saxon customs than less intelligent ones.

Perhaps even more important to the immigration debate is the heritability of IQ. Research shows that IQ is between 50 percent and 80 percent heritable meaning that other factors, such as nutrition, schooling, and the environment in which children are raised in have a relatively limited effect on intelligence. It follows, therefore, that the children of immigrants will have similar levels of economic success, job performance, educational attainment, and crime rates as their parents. So if we accept a large number of low-IQ immigrants, we can reasonably expect that their descendants will be a burden on American society for generations to come.

Curiously the U.S. government does not administer IQ tests for immigrants so the best data we can rely on are the average IQs of immigrants’ countries of origin. When we combine this data with the top ten Diversity Visa migrants’ countries of origin, we get this:

What’s more shocking, however, is just how low the average IQs of these countries are. Seven out of ten of these countries have an average IQ that meets the criteria for what psychiatrists call “Borderline Intellectual Functioning” and “Mild Mental Retardation.” Cameroon, Liberia, Iran, Nepal, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo all happen to qualify. Uzbekistan, the country of origin of Manhattan terrorist Sayfullo Saipov, narrowly avoided this category by only three IQ points. Not a single one of these top ten countries of origin have an average IQ that is equal to or greater than the average IQ of current United States residents, which is 98.  The only countries which come close to the United States average are Russia and Ukraine.

I don’t point this out to make fun of or dismiss these countries or their peoples, but rather to argue that the majority of immigrants coming from these seven countries are unlikely to assimilate and contribute to American society.

Detractors may attempt to dispute this by claiming that IQ tests are culturally biased and do not accurately measure intelligence or anything of importance to the real world. This may have been true a hundred years ago when IQ tests and the science of psychology were still in their infancy–but today IQ tests are purposefully designed to avoid cultural biases and to focus on pattern recognition, puzzle-solving, and other measures of cognitive ability that are not influenced by culture.

Moreover this argument quickly falls apart when, as I’ve done earlier in this article, one points out that the research shows that IQ is largely heritable and strongly correlated with economic success, job performance, educational attainment, and crime rates. A culturally biased test would not be capable of measuring a heritable trait, and it would likely fail at accurately predicting real-world success and crime rates.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of Diversity Visa migrants and their descendants will have a difficult time assimilating, be less likely to be economically successful, and more likely to become welfare recipients and criminals than the average American.


Immigration-flows from European countries to the United States prior to the abolition of nation-of-origin quotas

So far we’ve established two things: that diversity in and of itself is not a good thing and that the IQ of immigrants is an important factor in determining their ability to assimilate and contribute to American society. An immigration policy that puts the interests of the American people first should take these facts into consideration. So what are our options?

Following the Manhattan terror attack, President Trump called for an end to the Diversity Visa Lottery–a good first step. He also suggested instituting a “merit-based” immigration system. Trump is likely referring to the RAISE Act, an immigration bill he endorsed, which would eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery, cut legal immigration from one million to about 500,000 per year, and implement a merit-based “point system” for foreigners applying to move to the United States.

Under the plan, prospective immigrants would get points and therefore would be more likely to be accepted into the United States–for speaking English, being gainfully employed, having a high level of educational attainment, and starting a business. This system would give preference to high-IQ immigrants who are more likely to assimilate and contribute to American society.

The RAISE Act deserves praise for all of these things but several issues remain with the bill. First of all, the proposed legislation reduces – but does not eliminate – loopholes that allow for culturally-alien immigration, such as the family reunification and refugee programs. Secondly, aside from giving preference to immigrants who speak proficient English, the RAISE Act does not do anything to select for immigrants who have an ethnic or cultural affinity with America.

Considering the large number of English-learners and rapidly increasing levels of educational attainment in high-IQ countries like China, it’s possible that the RAISE Act will do nothing to increase levels of culturally-similar European immigrants, instead shifting the makeup of incoming immigrants in favor of culturally-alien East Asians. This would exacerbate the problems that America currently has with high diversity and low social cohesion.

Even better than the RAISE Act would be an immigration bill that would promote cultural homogeneity by re-establishing nation-of-origin quotas, similar to the immigration laws that America had prior to the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965. Such a law would put a large premium on immigrants from other Anglo-Saxon nations and a lesser premium on immigrants from other Western nations. Under such a law immigration from non-Western nations would not be totally excluded–but it would be restricted to particularly deserving individuals and slowed to account for the longer period of time it takes for these groups to assimilate and become absorbed by the host (American) population. These provisions would reduce the impact that immigration has on diversity in America, thereby allowing for greater social cohesion and an overall stronger American culture.

But, of course, such a proposal is unlikely to get a fair hearing in Congress anytime soon. Anyone proposing an immigration system that favors homogeneity will inevitably be labeled as a racist, white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and other ridiculous smears – regardless of the mountain of social science that shows that our present immigration system is a disaster. So perhaps the best change that we can hope for – for now – is the RAISE Act.

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