April 25, 2017
The main part of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program is due to expire on April 28 and the questions are: Will it be extended unchanged, and/or will either Congress or the executive cause it to be reformed? This is like three-dimensional chess because:
- The "Four Corners" in D.C. parlance — the Republican chairmen and the ranking Democrats of both the Senate and House Judiciary committees — want it extended, but only if reformed; otherwise they want the program to die;
April 24, 2017
When contemplating the reform of the H-1B program, in order to reduce the damage to resident workers, we usually hear about the wages paid, which is appropriate, but less often is there any discussion of the other three dimensions of the situation. (H-1B workers are nonimmigrants and usually college graduates.)
Clearly, if a large number of H-1Bs are admitted at an average wage of, say, $10,000 or $15,000 a year below the market level, as is the current situation, that depresses that labor market. But there are other obvious dimensions, less often discussed: Read more...
April 24, 2017
The Trump administration says it wants to drain the swamp in Washington; one small backwater in that great big marsh is the practice of giving government programs misleading names and initials.
For example, the immigrant investor program (or EB-5) is run by an entity within USCIS called by the initials IPO. Read more...
April 21, 2017
In another indication of the differing level of commitment to U.S. workers by the Trump administration, it has been announced that a lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation has been hired by the new Secretary of Agriculture to work on immigration and labor matters.
She is Kristi Boswell, and it is highly likely that she will push to get agribusiness the workers it wants, including foreign workers at the minimal wages it wants to pay. That certainly is the posture of the Farm Bureau, the largest of the agricultural lobbying organizations. Read more...
April 20, 2017
After looking at the proposed building specifications for the proposed border wall, I am worried that we may spend too much money per mile, thus reducing its length.
We need more wall, and less gold-plating. Read more...
April 19, 2017
The infinite solicitude that some parts of the Department of Homeland Security lavish on exploitative employers of aliens was displayed in a recent adopted (i.e., precedent) decision by its Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), an in-house court.
The employer in question had applied four times to bring in a temporary worker (L-1B) at illegally low wages, promising to pay the alien (in the most recent instance) "43,445 MYR per year. When converted from Malaysian ringgits (MYR) to U.S. dollars, this proffered salary is the equivalent of $13,467.95 per year or $6.47 per hour", according to the decision. This was the sequence of governmental actions in this case: Read more...
April 17, 2017
The Department of Homeland Security announced today that there were 199,000 applications for H-1B foreign worker visas, a noticeable drop from the previous year when there were 236,000 applications.
The congressionally set cap each year for these visas is 65,000 for those with bachelor's degrees and 20,000 for those with U.S. master's degrees or PhDs; there is no limit on the issuance of such visas to universities and those entities regarded as related to colleges and universities. So something like 100,000 new H-1B visas, usually good for three years, are issued each year. Read more...
April 17, 2017
This is a story about how one wily South Dakota politician managed to be appointed to (and retained in) office by both the Obama and the Trump administrations, all within a period of less than 18 months, while protecting the embattled EB-5 (immigrant investor) program from a series of criminal indictments and nasty headlines.
The direct beneficiaries of all this are a group of local EB-5 middlemen and their far-flung cronies, while the indirect beneficiaries are the big city (Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Dallas) real estate developers who secure most of the profits from the ongoing EB-5 program. The latter's wallets would suffer were the main part of the EB-5 program not to be renewed by Congress before its April 28 sunset. Read more...
April 17, 2017
Greedy employers of unskilled foreign workers used in hotels and landscaping are seeking a legislative end-run to expand the number of H-2B workers without congressional hearings.
According to Politico, the employers are trying to increase the congressionally mandated ceiling of 66,000 H-2B workers a year through a rider on the continuing resolution, the legislative vehicle that guarantees funding of the U.S. government beyond April 28. (This would permit the change without hearings on the matter.) Read more...
April 14, 2017
Two large national financial firms have agreed to pay a total of $163.3 million to settle claims against them arising out of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) scandal in Vermont.
Meanwhile nothing of the kind has happened in South Dakota, where the EB-5-related losses were probably even larger. Read more...
April 6, 2017
With the main part of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program about to sunset on April 28, its defenders are facing yet another scam, at the $50 million level, in which Chinese-Americans fleeced Mainland China investors.
Yesterday federal agents raided the offices of the California Investment Immigration Fund in San Gabriel, an EB-5 regional center, according to the Associated Press.
The timing could not have been better for those seeking either the reform of, or (less likely) the termination of the program. Read more...
March 29, 2017
My colleagues and I typically write about what is wrong with the immigration system, and what changes are needed. That's perfectly appropriate because much needs to be done.
But sometimes the system works well, and it is appropriate to report that, too.
I was not looking for exemplars of this kind when I met Anya (not her real name). As I do every spring, I was volunteering to help graduate students at a major D.C.-area university with their income tax returns, and she was next in line. Read more...
March 28, 2017
The U.S. government has announced that if you are flying directly to the United States from one of 10 listed international airports in the Middle East and North Africa, you may not carry a laptop into the cabin, for security reasons. All the airports are in Muslim-majority countries.
There is no ban on carrying laptops (and similar items) on U.S.-bound flights from other airports. Read more...
March 27, 2017
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a rare hearing earlier this month on a long-neglected subject, immigration-related married fraud.
Two U.S. citizens came forward to testify that they had been hoodwinked by aliens who subsequently abused the witnesses after securing what they had wanted in the first place — not love and marriage, but a green card. Read more...
March 23, 2017
What follows is a make-believe press release from the White House. But while the release is imaginary, the underlying facts are rock solid.
We are going to open up more than 140,000* good jobs for young American workers a couple of months from now, President Trump announced today. Read more...
March 21, 2017
The state of Kansas' finances are in tatters, but it nonetheless explicitly allows illegal aliens, using criminally obtained Social Security numbers, to receive state income tax refunds. There is a minor catch — the SSN thief has to have a note from his or her employer if the use of the bad SSN is noticed by Kansas tax collectors before the refund can be paid.
So, on one hand, an illegal alien worker who uses a phony SSN can get money from the state, money that might have gone to the state's beleaguered schools, while simultaneously a double standard has been set for employers: A knowing employer of an illegal can preserve a tax benefit for his illegal workers (thus lessening pressure on him to raise wages) while the unknowing (and perhaps innocent) employer of other illegals gets no such indirect benefit. Read more...
March 21, 2017
One of the virtues of working with some very big organizations is that they can produce excellent economic research on, say, the H-1B program, while ignoring the organizations' own extensive use of that very same program.
Harvard University, for example, employs George Borjas, who is highly critical of the H-1B program and has been for years, even though Harvard itself hires large numbers of H-1Bs. For his latest take on H-1B, and how it would fare in Congress if it covered lawyers as well as techies, see here. Read more...
March 18, 2017
One of the frustrations of watching the new administration is its apparent inability to find funds — except from routine tax collections — to build the promised wall.
It's estimated that it will cost $12-15 billion or more; the proposed FY 2018 budget includes $2.6 billion for the start of the process. Read more...
March 17, 2017
The EB-5 (immigrant investor) program took two body blows, neither well publicized, earlier this week, after taking a drubbing in a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.
This week's reverses both had bi-coastal angles. In the first, yet another EB-5 fraud case emerged in the state of Washington; it was announced (and denounced) by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Read more...
March 14, 2017
One of the management tools potentially available to the government in the immigration field is the size of the fees that it charges for adjudicating employer petitions.
At the very least, the size of the fees should meet the standards of the law (31 USC 9701), which I discuss below, and should not encourage the overuse of foreign workers to the detriment of resident workers. The past administration did not accept the second concept at all, but perhaps the new one will. Read more...
March 7, 2017
While it is good that some citizens and corporations are hauled into court for immigration violations, all too often — despite the nature of their actions — the violators get off with slaps on the wrist.
While there are countless cases of this kind, let me touch on just one recent criminal case and one recent civil case, both in the federal courts, and the unfortunate decision pattern of an obscure agency with an interesting name, the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) in the Department of Justice. Read more...
March 6, 2017
Perhaps I am wrong, but I think the new leadership of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent us coded messages Friday afternoon about the Trump administration's plans for the H-1B (alien worker) and the EB-5 (immigrant investor) programs.
Friday afternoon is the classic timing of government announcements when the government does not want them to secure too much attention. I know, because in a previous life I, too, played that game. Read more...
February 28, 2017
This may be blasphemy, but there is an eerie resemblance between the egocentric arguments of illegal aliens and the tweets of our egocentric president.
This thought crossed my mind when I read the latest defiant statement of an illegal alien who faces deportation, and deserves it: Jeanette Vizguerra, a multiple law violator whose op-ed piece appeared in the February 25 New York Times. The article was titled "Why I Will Not Leave"; had she or her copy editor been a little more familiar with this country and its traditions she would have written the more compelling "Why I Shall Not Be Moved," as in the Pete Seeger song. Read more...
February 27, 2017
If the main immigration policy disputes are being fought on the highway of executive orders and deportations, there is an energetic little scrap taking place in a nearby alley — a battle in which the Trump administration is being urged to take an open-borders position, which would conflict with its overall immigration policy.
This is the long-running conflict about regulating for-profit schools — including low quality schools for aliens and, within that subset, the out-and-out visa mills. Read more...
February 24, 2017
Here's a thought for most of the nation's governors, or, more precisely, the 41 in places with state income taxes on wages.
Governors, you can, all in one fell swoop:
- Save large chunks of state tax money,
- Encourage some illegal aliens in your state to leave without being deported, and
- Thereby open more jobs for the voters,
all by taking a simple action against a specific criminal population, people who are committing fraud by using Social Security numbers that were not issued to them. Read more...
February 24, 2017
Two different congressional delegations (codels, in DC parlance), with a total of 27 members of the House, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), are headed for the very part of South India which is the home of 42 percent of the worldwide population of H-1B workers. This is likely to strengthen the hand of those defending the status quo in the H-1B program.
Coincidence? Maybe. The Times of India happily reported earlier: "a record number of 27 U.S. congressmen will visit India later this month." Read more...
February 22, 2017
According to the headline in Fortune, "Accenture Joins Trump's Job Creation Drive". The article goes on to say that the firm will "open ten new innovation hubs in cities around the U.S., and create 15,000 highly skilled jobs in the process." In an earlier, less-hyped day we would have called them branch offices. Read more...
February 17, 2017
While the letter that follows is imaginary, the facts in it are rock solid.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan:
I am writing to you on behalf of the Democratic Party to thank you for protecting and prolonging the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program, which has brought disproportionate amounts of urban investment money to the blue states.
Your Olympian ability to overlook the fact that twice as much EB-5 money goes to blue, rather than red, states is admirable as you have presided over the continuing resolutions that have kept this extremely controversial program alive. Read more...
February 16, 2017
While our attention has been drawn to various immigration initiatives by the new White House, and the attacks thereon, a lot of things have been happening rather quietly in the world of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program. For example:
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, who has been valiantly trying to reform the program, has decided that it is beyond redemption and has joined Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in calling for its termination.
- The Washington Post, in a lead editorial the other day, agreed with the two senators.
- Joop Bollen, who was in charge of South Dakota's disastrous part of the EB-5 program, has pled guilty in a sweetheart deal with the state that gave him two years probation and a $2,000 fine. Thus he got off nearly unscathed while saving the state's establishment from embarrassments that might have accompanied a trial.