Police blamed an immigrant from Bangladesh for the botched attempt to bomb the New York City subway Monday morning, in a blast that did little damage but renewed the Trump administration’s call for stricter controls on legal immigration.
Akayed Ullah, inspired by Islamic State propaganda, was the chief victim of his attack, authorities said, with the pipe bomb he strapped to himself misfiring and leaving him with burns on his stomach. Several commuters suffered headaches from the blast.
Police charged Mr. Ullah Tuesday with criminal possession of a weapon, supporting an act of terrorism and making a terroristic threat.
A Homeland Security Department spokesman said Mr. Ullah was admitted to the U.S. on a family visa in 2011, tied to a relative who won the diversity visa lottery. It’s the second time in six weeks that someone connected to the visa lottery has been accused of a terrorist attack in New York, and the White House said that is more reason Congress should join President Trump’s call to end the lottery and curtail extended family chain migration.
“America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.”
Authorities said the attack on the country’s most iconic subway system could have been much worse.
They described the pipe bomb as a crude homemade device, and they were still trying to piece together whether it detonated early.
“He detonated the bomb, the explosive chemical in the bomb went off, it did not have the desired effect of causing the pipe itself to shatter, which would’ve caused the more significant damage,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The governor also said the suspect was working alone and appeared to have obtained his information from the internet. Mr. Cuomo said internet service providers and authorities need to find a way to work together to find threats through internet searches.
CNN reported that the attacker told authorities he was motivated by Israeli actions in Gaza. The attack was also the first terrorist strike since Mr. Trump announced last week that the U.S. Embassy would move to Jerusalem, over protests from the Muslim world.
Democrats, who have been opposing Mr. Trump’s calls for immigration limits, were largely silent on the implications of the botched attack, instead praising law enforcement for their response.
“Today was a startling reminder of why the ‘see something, say something’ campaign is so crucial to keeping our cities safe, and why we must always remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who said he was 15 blocks from the site of the attack.
Mr. Cuomo said the attacker was radicalized in the U.S.
But for the Trump administration, the attack was the latest evidence of potential terrorists using the world’s most generous immigration system to gain entry.
“The president’s policy calls for an end to chain migration, which is what this individual came to the United States through,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “And if his policy had been in place, then that attacker would not have been allowed to come in the country.”
She said Mr. Ullah was admitted on an F-4 visa, meaning he had family in the U.S. who were citizens.
Homeland Security Department spokesman Tyler Houlton said the citizen relative came to the U.S. under the visa lottery, which gives away 50,000 green cards, signaling legal immigration, by random chance every year.
Mr. Trump has called for ending the visa lottery and extended family immigration, as well as a broader set of reforms imposing stricter checks on business hiring, more deportation officers and his border wall. The president has called for those changes to be part of a year-end deal on legalizing illegal immigrant Dreamers.
Democrats have resisted, saying Dreamers’ fate shouldn’t be tied to any other issue. Many Democrats also have defended the current system, saying family-based migration should remain the focus and calling the diversity lottery a way to give would-be migrants from underrepresented countries a chance to enter the U.S.
Bangladesh has been disqualified from the lottery in recent years because the country had so many immigrants reaching the U.S. through other programs. But during the past two years its citizens were eligible, nearly 8,500 people from Bangladesh won the lottery.
Additionally, more than 10,000 people have come from Bangladesh based on family ties each year dating back to 2009. In 2016, the last year for which there are complete numbers, more than 18,000 people immigrated from Bangladesh based on family ties.
The man accused of the October rental truck attack in New York, which left eight people dead, was also a beneficiary of the visa lottery, coming from Uzbekistan in 2010.
“We have now seen two terrorist attacks in New York City in less than two months that were carried out by people who came here as the result of our failed immigration policies that do not serve the national interest,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday.
“The 20-year-old son of the sister of a U.S. citizen should not get priority to come to this country ahead of someone who is high-skilled, well-educated, has learned English, and is likely to assimilate and flourish here,” he said. “It is a failure of logic and sound policy not to adopt a merit-based immigration system.”