David North's blog

Another Group of Exploited Alien Workers Is Heard From – the Au Pairs

By David North, May 19, 2017

It's bad enough when foreign workers are exploited in bunches, as they are through farmworker visas and (at a higher wage level) the H-1B program, but think of the exploitation possibilities when a one young person from another country is working as the lone servant in an American household.

She has little contact outside the family that employs her and generally knows little about our (not very strong) worker protection laws, but does know that if she upsets the family, she will be put on the first plane back to the homeland.

Welcome to the State Department's au pair program! Read more...

Here's a Switch: The Dangers Migrants Face Leaving the U.S. for Canada

By David North, May 11, 2017

We have heard for years about aliens seeking to illegally enter the United States from the south dying in the heat of the desert along the southern border.

This past winter we began to hear about the exact opposite — aliens with dubious or no credentials fleeing from the United States to Canada, and risking freezing to death in the process. Read more...

Trump Sibling-in-Law Plays Princeling in China

By David North, May 8, 2017

Nicole Meyer (younger sister of President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner) may have been obtuse about the American optics in Beijing on Saturday, but she was spot-on with the Chinese culture when she pitched a crowd of rich Chinese about her family's latest EB-5 investment in Jersey City, N.J., right across the Hudson from mid-town Manhattan. Read more...

Open-Borders Advocates Slip EB-5 and H-2B Extensions into Spending Bill

By David North, May 2, 2017

The congressional leadership, aided by the Appropriations Committee, has once again extended the EB-5 program, and a loophole in the H-2B program, by inserting language in the massive interim budget bill. The provisions, due to expire this coming Friday will now remain in place until September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Republican and Democratic leaders agreed over the weekend to the text of the budget bill, which is expected to be passed shortly. Read more...

Yet Another Multimillion Dollar EB-5 Scandal Comes to Light

By David North, May 1, 2017

Just as the backers of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program drew a small sigh of relief — the program won a week's additional life from Congress — another multi-million-dollar scandal, this one involving a gold mine in Idaho, came to light.

The main part of the EB-5 program, which allows investors to essentially buy a family-sized set of green cards for $500,000, is set to sunset on Friday, May 5, unless the congressional leadership, yet again, secures another extension of the program. Read more...

Massive Fraud Shown in O-1 (Extraordinary Ability) Nonimmigrant Category

By David North, April 30, 2017

[Revised May 8, 2017, to reflect that the New York case involves O-1 nonimmigrant visas, not EB-1 immigrant visas.]

It is with some chagrin that I return to a discussion of the relatively small "aliens of extraordinary ability" visa category.

A few weeks ago I wrote enthusiastically about Anya (not her real name) as an exemplar of the immigration system working as intended, as it so often does not. Read more...

Bad News & Good News on Immigration

By David North, April 28, 2017

The bad news is that the immigration investor (EB-5) program will have one more week of life before yet another deadline.

The mini extension was carried in the continuing resolution passed by both houses today; it will keep the government funded for another week. Read more...

H-1B: A Lottery You Pay to Enter Only AFTER You Have Won

By David North, April 28, 2017

Is there a lottery, outside of Washington, where you only pay to enter after you know you have won?

I doubt it.

But there is a specialized (and obscure) one in Washington that only the big guys can use, thanks to the Bush II, Obama, and now (to some extent) the Trump administrations.

This is the roll of the dice (a computer-aided lottery system) that allocates H-1B slots to employers in cases in which — as has happened in recent years — there are more applications for these positions than the 85,000 that Congress permits to be granted annually. Read more...

EB-5 Extension Situation Likened to Three-Dimensional Chess

By David North, 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;

The Four Dimensions of H-1B Reform

By David North, 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...

Let's Have Honest Names for Visa Offices — Change IPO to VSO

By David North, 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...

Bad News: Department of Agriculture Hires Immigration Expert from the Farm Bureau

By David North, 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...

Let's Have More Wall and Less Gold-Plating

By David North, 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...

DHS Court Says to Employer: Four Strikes and You Are NOT Out

By David North, 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...

Sometimes the Immigration System Fails: The $105K Job Lost to OPT

By David North, April 18, 2017

Here are the facts:

  • The alien worker will have a brand-new MBA from a U.S. university by May.

  • He has already landed a new job in the States that will pay $105,000 a year.

  • The U.S. government is encouraging the alien's employment by giving his employer a subsidy of $8,032 a year for hiring him instead of one of the multitude of citizens with new MBAs.

Employers Are Less Interested in H-1B This Year Than Last

By David North, 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...

U.S. Attorney, Blessed by Obama AND Trump, Squashes EB-5 Indictments

By David North, 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...

Employers Use Sneaky Maneuver to Get More H-2B Alien Workers

By David North, 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...

Big Finance Firms Pony Up in Vt. EB-5 Case — Nothing Similar in S.D.

By David North, 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...

Chinese Americans, Again, Fleece Mainland Chinese in $50M EB-5 Scam

By David North, 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...

Sometimes the Immigration System Works: For Instance, Anya the EB-1A

By David North, 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...

The Government's Puzzling Laptop Prohibition

By David North, 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...

Senate Holds a Rare Hearing on Immigration-Related Marriage Fraud

By David North, 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...

White House Can Open Up 140,000 Jobs

By David North, 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...

With a Note from the Boss, Illegals in Kansas Get Tax Refunds

By David North, 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...

Academic Freedom and the Economic Impact of the H-1B Program

By David North, 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...

How to Make Illegal Immigrants Pay for the Wall

By David North, 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...

EB-5 Takes Two (Unpublicized) Body Blows with Bi-Coastal Overtones

By David North, 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...

Foreign Worker Visa Fees Shouldn't Subsidize Labor Market Abuse

By David North, 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...

Winning in Court Often Does Little for the Opponents of Immigration Abuse

By David North, 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...