Craziest Immigration Scam Ever? Buy a House, Get a Visa

Published on October 24th, 2011

About five years into what eventually would become my 25-year (and counting) commitment to reforming immigration in a way positive for America, I promised myself I would never claim that I had "seen it all." Early on, I recognized that the powerful forces that lobby for more immigration within and outside Congress are creative enough to keep incentivizing immigrants.

Today, even though I’m strongly tempted to say I’ve now seen everything, I’ve learned enough over more than two decades to hold my tongue. But it might be hard for the immigration advocates to top the recent proposal offered by Senators Chuck Schumer (D – N.Y.) and Mike Lee (R – Utah) that would give permanent resident visas to foreign investors who plop down at least $500,000 to buy a home.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, reporter Nick Timiroas outlined the plan in his blog titled Foreigners’ Sweetener: Buy a House, Get a Visa.

Schumer’s scheme is consistent with his horrible immigration record. During his nearly thirty-year-long Congressional career, Schumer has voted for every amnesty and every hurtful increase in non-immigrant visas that’s ever been put in front of him. For the newly elected Senator Lee, the jury is out but the house for a visa concept is a black eye.

Like every other harebrained immigration scheme, Schumer and Lee offer what may seem like (to the uninitiated) plausible explanations. According to their thinking, the visa initiative would help soak up an excess supply of housing inventory since many would-be American home buyers are hesitant to upgrade because of job concerns or because they cannot free up liquidity from the current house they’re stuck in.

Said Schumer: "This is a way to create more demand without costing the federal government a nickel." Only a man who recently said that more immigration creates more American jobs could come up with an idiotic line like that.

At times like these, I despair Capitol Hill’s stupidity. Of course, Schumer (and apparently Lee) have an immigration agenda. But they probably have no idea how many millions of houses their coveted foreign investors would have to buy to make even a tiny dent in the nation’s shadow inventory.

Here’s a true portrait of the housing market as described in an October 15 Miami Herald story:

"Officially, there are 3.5 million homes for sale nationwide. But there are millions more lurking in the shadows — hidden neatly away on banks’ balance sheets, stalled in foreclosure court proceedings, or simply occupied by nonpaying owners as lenders wait months or years before taking action."

When the shadow inventory is added to the 3.5 million, the total—to the horror of the real estate industry—approaches 7.5 million homes.

Unless Schumer proposes issuing about 3 million visas to prospective home buyers, his plan is just another exercise in futility that has no chance of helping distressed Americans.

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