By Joe Guzzardi
October 15, 2012
Census Bureau data that analyzed population statistics from 2010-2011 found that more than 50 million legal and illegal immigrants and their minor children live in the United States, a record high. The most recent immigrant wave that began during the last decade has added, including children, 22.5 million residents and accounts for 80 percent of the nation’s population growth.
These dramatic immigration increases have consistently grown from year to year. At the same time, traditional immigrant assimilation has suffered. The reason is simple: more visas for foreign-born have been created while no restrictions or sustained efforts to limit immigration or enforce existing immigration law have been implemented. Once immigrants arrive, too few make efforts to blend into American society.
The EB-5 visa is an example. As part of the 1990 Immigration Act, Congress originally authorized the so-called business investor visa. Each year since then, the EB-5 has been reauthorized without congressional debate. On its face, the EB-5 is intended to attract foreign investors to start United States-based capital intensive business. The businesses would, supposedly, create jobs and stimulate the American economy.
In essence, the U.S. is willing to sell visas to anyone who promises to invest $500,000 and hire at least ten employees. The rosy picture that the federal government paints, however, doesn’t withstand close scrutiny.
An immigration lawyer interpreted the EB-5 visa more critically. According to him, for any person of means who wants to facilitate his children’s United States education at colleges or universities, retire here or simply pursue the proverbial “better life,” the EB-5 is the vehicle for him. Everyone in his family gets a green card which can eventually lead to citizenship.
Furthermore, the EB-5 investor is at liberty to employ other family members which limits his business’s contributions to national employment. Summarizing, the lawyer called the EB-5 the perfect vehicle to do “whatever you want” in the United States.
The EB-5 process begins with a conditional visa, standard procedure with many visas like the K-1 which is designed for newly married spouses of U.S. citizens. Conditional visas include work authorization. When the two year period expires, the family must go through another immigration process to ask that the “conditions be removed” and that their status be converted to permanent resident. The conditions will be removed only if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is satisfied that the investment remained in place for at least two years and that enough jobs were created or preserved to meet the visa’s requirements. But since some EB-5 investors opened gas stations and not major manufacturing plants, whether the total new jobs created met expectations is an arbitrary decision.
Compared to similar programs in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, U.S. qualifying standards are weak. Not only do these other nations ask for a larger initial investment, they also impose other demands. The UK expects that, in addition to an investment of £1,000,000, the investor speaks English. Australia and New Zealand demand that the investor be under a certain age with 45, 55, and 65 being cut-off points. As one consulate officer told me, “We don’t want to encourage an elderly population who may eventually seek social services.” Australia also requires that the investor has at least 50 percent more in net assets than the minimum requirement. These are reasonable conditions that the United States should immediately adopt if it plans to continue the EB-5 visa.
The EB-5 generates no meaningful capital inflow. Netting out EB-5 contributions, the total foreign investment in the United States increased in 2010 by nearly $2 trillion. Based on its inefficiency, the EB-5 should be immediately ended. No one except a handful of opportunistic immigrants intent on scamming the system would suffer.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]