Immigration

Selling Green Cards is the American Thing To Do

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The Daily reported earlier this week that the feds are clamping down on their "cash for visa" green-card program – called EB-5—because some people are offended by the thought of America selling residency. The program gives wealthy foreigners who are willing to invest $500,000 to a million dollars a green card. And then, two years later, if they can prove that their investment created 10 jobs, citizenship.

Reports The Daily:

Critics slam the program as a "cash for visas" scheme, but an increasing number of developers have been calling it their saving grace in the wake of the financial crisis that caused construction financing to dry up.

"We're using EB-5 because it's the only money available," said Henry Liebman. He has used the program to build more than 30 projects in an industrial section of south Seattle, including a two-building retail and office development called Home Plate Center, and is now looking to use it as source of funding for projects in four other states.

The niche program, created in 1990 and today open to 10,000 investors and their family members per year, has exploded since the financial crash left America pockmarked with stalled construction sites.

Nationwide, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the program, has approved 219 development zones — rural areas or areas of supposedly high unemployment, where money can be raised through the EB-5 program at the discounted $500,000 per investor rate. That's up from just 11 zones in 2006. California has the most with 58; Florida is second with 20.

But the agency has been increasingly denying applications to create new development zones, officially called "regional centers," and issued a letter last week saying it was toughening its standards.

Now, there are many things wrong with this program but that it is "selling" green cards is not one of them, although the price tag that EB-5 charges might be irrationally steep. In fact, the "commodification" of green cards is the best way to bring some semblance of rationality to our otherwise loopy immigration rules and hence this program needs to enlarged, expanded and extended beyond just rich foreigners.

This idea was initially propounded many years ago by University of Chicago Nobel laureate, Gary Becker who recommended auctioning off green cards to individual immigrants, starting at $50,000, raising about $50 billion annually. Since then, many people have offered various iterations, including last year Federal Reserve of Dallas economist Pia Orrenius who suggested selling work visas to employers with complete transferability rights for $10,000 for a high-skill visa, $6,000 for a low-skill visa, and $2,000 for a seasonal visa. This would create a market for visas giving America some sense of just how attractive an economic destination it is at any given time. More importantly, since most immigrants would enter the country with a job, fears that they'd mooch off welfare would be greatly diminished.

But what is wrong with the EB-5 program? Plenty.

One: There is more than a hint of fatal conceit involved in immigration – immigration – authorities picking "development zones" worthy of investment.  Seriously? These are folks who can't distinguish between innocuous foreigners who want to do nothing more than pump thousands of dollars into the economy visiting Mickey Mouse from the Mohammad Attas of the world who want to blow up the country. Yet they somehow know which areas and projects are good candidates for foreign investors.  

Two: The Daily story notes that EB-5 has pumped massive amounts of money into the construction industry. "It's just a way of being able to get free money, basically, to build all sorts of projects," says Victor Essam, vice president of acquisition for Global Premier America. Global Premier is raising $5 million through the program to build medical offices in Orange, Calif.

But do we really need foreigners to hand out "free money" and re-inflate the housing bubble? Isn't the Federal Reserve doing a good enough job all by itself? Indeed, if we want to use foreign cash to help the housing industry, the better way to go about it would be to implement the scheme recommended by Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian expat and Silicon Valley-entrepreneur-turned-Ivy-researcher. Wadhwa suggests that America should hand green cards on an expedited basis to any foreigner willing to make a down payment toward a $250,000 house. Wadhwa's calculations show that at least 20 percent of the qualified immigrants will take the offer, instantly taking 100,000 homes off the market, and injecting $25 billion into the economy.  The beauty of this idea is that foreigners who are going to live in a house will at least ensure that we are not mindlessly adding real estate stock that has no takers.

Three: The program makes even more cash available to Uncle Sam to politicize economic decision-making. Indeed, the projects funded by the program include not just ski resorts, gas stations and office towers but also – wait for it—wind farms! Evidently it isn't enough that American taxpayers have to be forced to fund Solyndra; now we want to enlist foreigners, many of who are trying to come here to escape government corruption and waste at home, too.

I could go on, but you get the point.

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  1. including last year Federal Reserve of Dallas economist Pia Orrenius who suggested selling work visas to employers with complete transferability rights for $10,000 for a high-skill visa, $6,000 for a low-skill visa, and $2,000 for a seasonal visa.

    That would be an improvement, since the current cost of a seasonal visa for the employer can run to $5,000.00 between paperwork, lawyer fees and the cost of the visa itself.

    1. Just what I was thinking. Sounds like a bargain to me!

  2. This would create a market for visas giving America some sense of just how attractive an economic destination it is at any given time. More importantly, since most immigrants would enter the country with a job, fears that they’d mooch off welfare would be greatly diminished.

    Only if the requirement of the employer to “prove” he needs an immigrant worker is eliminated. First, because it stems from economic illiteracy, as the job does not belong to a country but to the employer; and second because it simply raises the cost for the employer who is going to hire the immigrant worker anyway.

    1. …as the job does not belong to a country but to the employer…

      You’d think that, but yesterday on the immigration thread there were several people arguing very passionately that since they pay taxes into a common pool, they do indeed get to have a say over everything that anyone wants to do within the borders of “their” country. One guy even went so far as to say that the entire nation is akin to his own home.

      1. It’s amazing how many people fall back to thinking that the whole country is collectively owned when it comes to immigration issues.

        1. Why not, it is for defence and security issues.

          1. Since the government can control a territory without owning it, why do you require that the territory must be owned by the government? Why not give the government the minimum power necessary rather than the maximum?

            If someone has smallpox in some house in a US city, the government will prevent people from entering and leaving that house. The government can do this perfectly well without owning the house.

  3. This isn’t a new idea. From the Libertarian President Top 100:

    13. To the extent that bibertarian/welfare policies remain in place despite my best efforts, charge a per-person cover charge to each country that “allows” its citizens to illegally emigrate to the United States. However, the first drink is on the house and all domestic drafts are $2.00, call brands are $5.00. Complimentary buffet available from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. in most states.

    1. My workplace internet filter claims that website is “pornography”. Good to know you base your political philosophy on smut, you heathen.

      1. filter claims that website is “pornography”

        It’s probably that “Constitution” thing setting it off.

      2. What? I find that annoying. I’m not aware of any porn.

        1. Certainly, I haven’t posted any. I’m doubting that VM or highnumber would’ve, either.

          1. Oh, it doesn’t mean there’s actual porn porn. The filter’s really poorly done.

            Does the site have any pictures of scantily clad ladies? There might be image-detecting software involved that thinks I’m trying to look at boobs…

            1. The urkobold is my refuge and my strength

            2. Well, the Urkobold may have posted something like that once or twice. And maybe BP.

          2. *Ahem*

            1. Do you have something to say, BP? Why can’t these nice people read our blog?

              1. Personally, I think it’s the boss’ fault. I tastefully hid the compendium of bounciness I posted in October.

                1. Well, I, for one, am not telling the Urkobold.

        2. Your Spock/Kirk furry slashfic is probably what set it off, ProL.

          1. Spock/Kirk furry slashfic

            *shudder*

          2. You’re making that up. It’s not possible.

        3. What about that filthy monkey porn that Pham contributed a while back?

          1. Oh, right. The showering business.

            We really need an editor.

    2. Don’t tell me you’re going to maintain the bullshit distinction between “domestic” and “microbrews are actually counted as imports even if they were made in the brewery up the road”.

      1. Not my decision–let the free market decide.

        1. I actually had a server list “Leinenkugel” as an import once.

          In Wisconsin.

          1. Maybe it’s some city-state thing.

            1. The gamboling thread is down there.

      2. What brand goes best with radioactive fire breath?

        1. IPAs. But sadly I don’t really like them.

  4. now we want to enlist foreigners, many of who are trying to come here to escape corrupt governments, too.

    Well, if they don’t like here, they can move to North Korea!

  5. But…but…paying for citizenship is like, wrong, and stuff!

    People who don’t like immigration will find a reason to be critical of every plan. Because they don’t want “better” immigration, they want none.

  6. I look forward to the development of secondary markets for US citizenships. I wonder what I can get for ProLib’s citizenship on eBay?

    1. My family has been here for an exceedingly long time, so it’s worth more than newbie citizenships.

  7. two years later, if they can prove that their investment created 10 jobs, citizenship.

    ho ho hold the fuck up now…

    If i remember correctly, you can’t even *apply* for 2 years, then the intervening green card is 5 years, then citizenship *may* happen in 10 or so…

    meaning, i’ve heard plausible cases where people have waited 10-20yrs to become citizens.

    A guy i know married a women from overseas, and it took her 2 years just to apply, then 8years before complete independent citizenship(at which point she dumped him) And that was a *streamlined* case.

    and people say “get in line like everyone else!” Fuck this shit. And the reason they’re doing it is so the state can “create new development zones”…?

    How to Fuck Everything Up in One Easy Lesson =

    “Let government do it”

  8. Really I expected more gamboling puns by now…

  9. I envy anyone who has never had any contact with the immigration nazis. We employ a few green card doctors.

    It is a fucking nightmare. Most recently: we have probably 15 clinic locations. They aren’t allowed to practice at any clinic until we have posted and filed that clinic location as one where they will work.

    Not only that, but we have the only infectious disease doctor in town. We were not allowed to have her provide on-call coverage at the hospital until we posted and filed it as a new work location.

    That’s right: we weren’t allowed to call the only infectious disease doctor in town, to our hospital, to look at, oh, I dunno, potential antibiotic-resistant staph outbreaks, until the immigration nazis said we could.

    1. Just tell them it’s interfering with abortions. The Feds will send in a Marine Amphibious Unit. Nancy Pelosi will call for hearings.

    2. Good. Serves you right for taking jobs away from the AMERICAN infectious disease doctors in your town.

    3. That’s right: we weren’t allowed to call the only infectious disease doctor in town, to our hospital, to look at, oh, I dunno, potential antibiotic-resistant staph outbreaks, until the immigration nazis said we could.

      I am adding this to my list of Reasons US Healthcare is Fucked Up.

      1. You must be on at least Vol. 4 by now.

      2. Did I mention the part where we had to argue that they should allow her to cover the hospital even though it might mean she works more than 40 hours in any given week?

        1. Now she’s taking two American infectious disease doctors’ jobs? Are you crazy?

        2. GLORIOUS!

          And yeah, it’s a looooong list. I work for a company that partners with healthcare providers, so I’ve seen some of the gory details. It’s been an informative experience.

  10. Would it be too much to say “anyone who wants to come here that is not a criminal may come”. We do background checks on them. If they clear, we let them in. If not, we send them back. If they commit a serious crime in this country, we arrest them, prosecute them, lock them up. Upon release, we ship them back to country of origin.

    But no… that might mean too many dirty Mexicans come here, right?

    Anyway, we don’t afford them any welfare until they are citizens. If they prove to be upstanding resident aliens and have learned the language after 5 years, we grant them citizenship.

    1. That’s just crazy talk.

      Next you’ll be suggesting we should fondly remember Ellis Island as an illustrious gateway to America and freedom rather than the sluice of human refuse that in our wiser hindsight it clearly was.

    2. I’d go one better. If you are blacklisted in your home country, we’ll give you a chance to petition for refugee status if you can prove to our satisfaction that the government of the place you are leaving might care enough to fuck up your life.

      1. Yeah. We should check to see what they were convicted/accused of in their home country and match up against our own laws. If someone was accused of “converting to Christianity from Islam”… well, I don’t want to send the poor guy back to Iran, so he can get his head chopped off.

        But if he was convicted of raping a child or murdering someone, send his ass back. We don’t need him.

  11. IT would behoove you to do a littel deeper research on the program. The government does not select the projects that are appplicable, private companies that responded to RFPs and were selected by relevant municipalities decise whther a project is “safe” for investment or not. Projects must be sponsored by the City in which they are located. The feds actually have very little to do with the program.

    And the money is not free. It carries a 2% current pay rate and must return 8% to the investor over a 5 to 7 year maximum investmetn horizon. And a take out must be in place prior to the initial investment. Granted, it is a low rate for equity, but the program really functions more as mezzanine debt.

    1. This guy know what he’s talking about.

      But for real. He actually does.

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