• Woman who immigrated to Seattle through Visa Lottery program reacts to President's comments

    By: Ranji Sinha

    Updated:

    A Seattle woman had a very personal reaction to the political bomb dropped by the president Thursday: In a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss immigration, Donald Trump is quoted as saying, "Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here?" 

    The White House isn't denying the remarks made during discussion of cutting the Diversity Visa Lottery program. 

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     After the president’s comments, one Seattle woman posted on social media her own experience with the visa lottery. Kristjana Asbjornsdottir says she won the lottery and came from Iceland. After the president's comments, she gets the sense he'd prefer people from places "like Iceland” but she has earned degrees from the University of Washington and has lived and worked in Africa. She says doesn't want to see countries classified by class, race or preference.

    “When I won I had a hard time believing it was real, and it's been amazing and it's opened so many doors,” Asbjornsdottier said. She says the visa lottery has helped her earn academic degrees, perform cutting edge research and build a life in Seattle. 

    When she heard the president use the term s---hole in reference to the program, she wasn't happy. The president was quoted making comments about Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador in frustration over current immigration policy.

    Trump said "why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?” 

    Trump said he’d rather have people from countries like Norway. 
    The irony of that last statement wasn’t lost on Asbjornsdottir, who hails from Iceland. “Coming from a country that's a lot more similar to Norway but having very strong ties to countries that I suspect are in the latter category, that was really upsetting for me.”

    Asbjornsdottir says the president has been making his feelings clear since the fall, when he said the lottery was bringing the "worst people’" to America,. “There was another comment that the diversity lottery brings the worst people from other countries, so now not only are they the worst people they’re also the worst countries. I don’t think it’s a good way to think about the world.”

    The White House says Trump is working on a plan to try to protect young immigrants and increase border security. He has called for tougher restrictions on immigration and wants it to be merit based, and has mentioned the concept on Twitter several times.  

    Sen. Lindsey Graham was in the meeting where the president made the comments but had a more positive assessment of the meeting,. “The president was very gracious and I think he appreciated the fact that people are putting ideas forward," Graham said.

    Visa lottery winners like Asbjornsdottir are afraid ending the program could deprive the U.S. of the next immigrant success stories. “I don't want to perpetuate a stereotype that there's only one way to be a good immigrant, the right kind of immigrant, yeah it definitely bothers me,” she said.
    Asbjornsdottir says she has traveled back to Iceland, did extensive paperwork, medical testing, criminal background checks, and paid for it all -- winning the visa lottery wasn't a free ride.

    “It’s not that there’s a single way to make a success of your opportunity to come here…Everyone who applies to the lottery program sees this as an opportunity to make a success of themselves in whatever way that means to them,” she said.

    The White House is fighting back against the wave of criticism being lobbed at the president for his choice of words. Spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement while "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries," Trump "will always fight for the American people."

    Shah added that Trump wants to welcome immigrants who "contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation," and will always reject "temporary, weak and dangerous stop-gap measures" that he says, "threaten the lives of hardworking Americans" and undercut other immigrants.

     

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