David North's blog

DHS Silent While $50 million in EB-5 Funds Stolen Over Seven Years

By David North, April 18, 2016

For a period of at least seven years, the Department of Homeland Security either did not know about the theft of $50 million in its Vermont EB-5 program, a sign of remarkable incompetence, or knew about it and did nothing about it, a sign of something worse.

The loss of these moneys in a well-honed Ponzi scheme was announced last week by the Securities and Exchange Commission — once again riding to the rescue — and by chagrined officials of the State of Vermont, as we reported at the time.

As of Sunday, DHS had — perhaps understandably — issued no statements on the disaster to the program, which is like the Titanic's owners saying nothing after its sinking. Read more...

And Lo, the Ground Opened Before Him!

By David North, April 18, 2016

The Border Patrol continues to discover tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border in, shall we say, a low-tech manner.

The most recent Border Patrol press release on the discovery of a tunnel said, in effect, that one of its agents encountered the tunnel when the ground opened up before him, or to quote the release:

As the agent approached the anomaly [a depression] in the soil on foot, it began to give way exposing a hole 18 inches in diameter.

Chicago Case Underlines the Two Iron Rules of Immigration-Related Fraud

By David North, April 15, 2016

There are two iron rules of immigration-related fraud:

  1. If someone violates the immigration law they are likely to violate other laws, too.
  2. Fraud is often inflicted on later arrivals by earlier arrivals from the same country.

A recent case in Chicago was exactly in line with these two rules. Richard and Maribel Tinimbang, descendants of Filipino immigrants, charged with swindling $45 million in Medicare funds, were also charged with immigration fraud in connection with their effort to obtain forced household labor from a new arrival from the Philippines. Read more...

Body Blow for EB-5 – Millions Stolen from Projects in Vermont

By David North, April 14, 2016

The EB-5 program received a major body blow today. Projects in Vermont have been regarded as pure as driven snow, but now it turns out that one of the major players misused $50 million, which, among other things, allowed him to purchase a luxury condominium in Manhattan's Trump Place. Read more...

Senate Committee Hears About Gerrymandering in the EB-5 Program

By David North, April 14, 2016

It's always aggravating when watching a congressional hearing to find that the very best of the witnesses is arguing for the point of view that is exactly opposite to your own. Read more...

Technology vs. the Border Patrol

By David North, April 13, 2016

Although the Border Patrol has many expensive, often high-tech tools at its disposal — drones, helicopters, tethered balloons, and fixed-wing planes in the air and an impressive array of sensors and alarm systems on the ground — it is obvious that sometimes technology helps the other side.

Here are some examples:

Their Drones. Ominously, the Border Patrol reported earlier this month that smugglers' drones, usually two to four feet wide, are being used to ferry drugs from Mexico to the United States. Read more...

Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) Visas

By David North, April 12, 2016

While there have been news stories and congressional hearings on EB-5 visas (the immigrant investor program), a roughly comparable program that brings in about four times as many aliens has drawn virtually no attention.

This is the Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) program. It provided nonimmigrant visas for more than 42,000 aliens in 2013, the last year for which we have statistics. Unlike the EB-5 program, it offers only temporary visas for traders and investors, and unlike the EB-5 program its growth in recent years has been steady, but not dramatic. Read more...

In an Unusual Burst of Creativity, ICE Sets Up a Successful Visa Mill Sting

By David North, April 5, 2016

In an unusual and commendable move, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) established a phony visa mill, created a network of recruiters for it, and then arrested 21 of the conspirators yesterday.

ICE established the totally imaginary University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), which was described to recruiters of foreign students as having no classes, and then watched as these recruiters (for a fee) enrolled "students" in the scheme. Since the whole enterprise was known as a fraud to everyone concerned — recruiters, brokers, "students", and some employers of the "students" — all were clearly participating in illegal activity. Read more...

Trump Brings Up Question of Remittances to Mexico

By David North, April 5, 2016

In his usual oafish way, Donald Trump has brought a usually ignored aspect of immigration economics to the fore: the outward flow of remittances to Mexico and other nations, and how those transfer payments harm the American economy.

Trump has proposed to block all such transfers to Mexico until Mexico agrees to pony up $5 billion to build his wall. He sets the amount at about $25 billion a year to Mexico; about an equal amount goes to other nations.

While it is useful that The Donald has raised the remittances issue, he has used a sledgehammer when a more precise tool would be more effective. Read more...

Finally: Criminal Charges Filed in the South Dakota EB-5 Scandal

By David North, April 1, 2016

Finally, after years and years of avoiding the issue, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) has filed a handful of criminal charges against the former state official in charge of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program, Joop Bollen, according to an account in the Rapid City Journal by Seth Tupper. Read more...

Danger: Avalanche of EB-5 Petitions May Prompt Calls for Program Expansion

By David North, March 31, 2016

Nervous Chinese millionaires and multi-millionaires, sensing that the rock-bottom level of investment now set by the U.S. government for a handful of immigrant visas ($500,000) is about to increase, have, along with others, filed enough EB-5 petitions to meet the program's ceiling for five years to come.

It is the Obama administration's dream come true — there is so much demand for these visas that it can now argue for an expansion of the program beyond the decades-long ceiling of 10,000 visas a year. Read more...

SEC Cleans Up Two EB-5 Messes in One Week

By David North, March 30, 2016

The Securities and Exchange Commission, once again, has galloped onto the scene to clean up messes created by the ever-messy EB-5 (immigrant investor) program — this time handing down orders on two different cases within a few days of each other in the week of March 21.

It ordered one set of middlemen, in Florida, to disgorge about $3.2 million in ill-gotten EB-5 fees; in a Washington State case, it consented to a settlement in which an EB-5 lawyer agreed to pay the Commission $278,169 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties.

In both cases the parties had acted as unregistered broker-dealers; one might think that professionals handling multi-million dollar EB-5 deals would know better, but that was not the case. The EB-5 program gives sets of green cards to investors (for the alien, the spouse, and all their children under 21) who provide DHS-licensed regional centers with half-million-dollar investments. Read more...

The H-1B Program Facilitates Blatant Racial Discrimination

By David North, March 29, 2016

Suppose there was a large, U.S. government-operated program that permitted U.S. employers to hire nothing but White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) college-graduate men between the ages of 22 and 30.

Suppose that program, more narrowly, allowed major U.S. employers to discriminate in favor of descendants of men who had graduated from an Ivy League College before World War II. (After WWII the Ivy League dropped its restrictive admissions practices.) Read more...

The EB-5 Program Continues to Be a Bonanza for Litigating Lawyers

By David North, March 28, 2016

Never let it be said that the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program does not create jobs in the American economy.

It may not do much for factory workers or hotel employees, but it is a bonanza for lawyers, and yet another expensive legal dispute came into view recently. Read more...

U.S. Immigration Policy as a 10-Layer Cake with Cuban Frosting

By David North, March 25, 2016

If you were a creature from outer space, complete with really good computational skills, and you were examining U.S. immigration policy, you would find that our policy resembles a 10-layer cake, coated with a Cuban frosting.

While immigration law sometimes applies equally to aliens from all nations, as in the case of a U.S. citizen seeking a visa for an alien spouse, different rules often apply to different kinds of migrants from different countries, in a maze of complications. This blog post is an effort to illustrate how the total set of migration rules impacts different nations. (In some cases a nation will appear in two or more layers, and some of the layers will be much more populated than others.) Read more...

Where's the Free French Model Among Europe's Refugees?

By David North, March 23, 2016

Turkey may, similarly, be induced by European money to play a similar role in the near future.

The quotation above was part of a blog post late last year in which I suggested that maybe in the future Europeans would follow our example and hire Turkey to block the path of migrants to Europe, as we seem to have done with Mexico in connection with the Central Americans, if not the Cubans. That has come to pass. Read more...

Ebola Crisis Is Over, But TPS Is Extended for Three Nations Anyway

By David North, March 22, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security, which routinely extends Temporary Protected Status (TPS, a form of amnesty) for 18-month periods, today extended it for only six months for three West African nations where Ebola had been active in the recent past.

My sense is that DHS, feeling that the rationale for creating TPS in the first place in those nations was weak then and is considerably weaker now, compromised between the usual full-throated extension and none at all by cutting the renewal period to six months. Read more...

EB-5 Notes: A Court Case, OIG Reminders, and a N.Y. Times Review

By David North, March 18, 2016

There's a lot going on in the usually shuttered world of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program. There is an intriguing new court case, reminders by the DHS inspector general that the program has not taken basic steps for reform laid out years ago, and a sober New York Times review of the whole scene. Read more...

The Population Growth Nuances of Our Immigration Policies

By David North, March 17, 2016

Many of our public leaders on both the left and right are not only for increasing legal immigration, some of them (Hillary Clinton, for example) seem opposed to any enforcement of the immigration law except in the case of violent criminals.

There is also a series of more nuanced (and often not recognized) policies in the immigration field that push us in the same way to have ever-increasing crowds of people in the United States. It is useful to at least enumerate some of these nuances. Read more...

H-1B Worker Driven Deep into Poverty Sues Employer

By David North, March 16, 2016

The H-1B worker wanted a few days off work so that he could visit his dying father in India; his employer (a fellow Indian) said not until you give me $300.

The H-1B did not have the money so he never saw his father alive again. Or so one side argues in federal court.

At a time when a lot of H-1B controversies deal with whether the worker should get $90,000 a year rather than $70,000 it is a splash of cold water to the face to encounter an H-1B conflict where real poverty is involved. Read more...

DHS Gets Less Data on EB-5 Middlemen than Amex Does on Card Holders

By David North, March 16, 2016

Suppose you want a formal license from the U.S. government that allows you to raise tens of millions of dollars in investments through a government-promoted program that makes aliens into green card holders, a program in which you, the middleman, can levy fees on the aliens without limit?

Suppose, on the other hand, you want a credit card?

Which application do you suppose asks more personal questions of the applicant, the one for the fraud-plagued EB-5 immigrant investor program or for the credit card? Here is the full list of all the personal questions asked in these two programs: Read more...

If the EB-5 Developer Can't Count the Zeroes, Look for Another Broker

By David North, March 15, 2016

An as example of how slipshod some EB-5 offers can be, here's a developer who has run an uncorrected proposal on the Internet for weeks that manages to confuse $1.575 billion with $157.5 million. The EB-5 program offers a family-sized set of green cards to aliens ponying up $500,000 investments.

The proposal sounds, at first, to be interesting: Read more...

Big Tax Breaks for Controversial DHS-Licensed School for Indian Migrants

By David North, March 10, 2016

Here are five different views of a single, controversial educational institution that majors in students from India — the Northwestern Polytechnic University of Fremont, Calif.:

  • The venerable Times of India calls it a "massive academic rip-off";

  • Slightly more charitably, India's Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, tweeted that NPU and another, somewhat similar institution, Silicon Valley University, "are not blacklisted, but they are not reputed either."

DHS Comforts the Comfortable with "Known Employer" Initiative

By David North, March 8, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security, under the guise of governmental efficiency, has made another move to comfort the most comfortable among us in its new "Known Employer" gambit.

It has chosen five (apparently) model employers and will make it much easier for them to hire foreign workers in the next year. If this pilot program works as planned it will be open to many more employers in the future.

Why not focus all of the executive and legal hours spent on this initiative instead on using them to figure out a model way to prevent exploitation of foreign and domestic workers among the, say, bottom 5 percent of the employers of alien workers? Read more...

Trump Has Clear Record on EB-5; Clinton's Brother Also Profits from EB-5

By David North, March 7, 2016

The EB-5 immigrant investor program is now playing a minor role in the presidential primaries; the two apparent leaders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have ties to the program, though the other four do not, at least not yet. Read more...

Immigration, the Courts, and Statistics

By David North, March 4, 2016

Most migrants do not wind up in our circuit courts of appeal, but what the judges decide is not only important to the aliens involved, it often sets or refines our immigration policies.

With that in mind, I was looking over a set of circuit court decision statistics the other day and noted the remarkable variation in the outcomes of migrant cases in the different circuits. The Seventh Circuit (which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) was 10-times as likely to rule in favor of aliens as the Fifth Circuit (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) during CY 2015. Read more...

Duty Is Not Always Grimly Serious for CBP — There's That Ice Bridge

By David North, March 3, 2016

The routine of our border guards is broken every year about this time when they open up a border crossing point that is at the end of a frozen highway.

If the highway is not well frozen, those entering from Canada are going to take a very cold bath.

This is the annual crossing of a small arm of Lake Huron from Canada to a lightly populated part of Michigan, Drummond Island. The island is 50 miles east of the smaller and better-known Mackinac Island and has a population of a little over 1,000. Read more...

The Dismal Record of All the Candidates on Temporary Foreign Workers

By David North, February 29, 2016

None of the major candidates for president has a commendable record on reducing the use of temporary (indentured) foreign workers.

In my view the worst of this sorry lot are the candidates who personally profited from the foreign worker program. Next are the candidates with flip-flop positions on the issue; these candidates have a proven bad record on the issue with a dab of hypocritical frosting on top. And then there is a candidate who has not made money out of the aliens, and not flip-flopped, but is wrong anyway.

This is how they stack up, as I see it: Read more...

The Silently Powerful Reach Out to the Linguistically Handicapped

By David North, February 26, 2016

It was one of those strange situations that pop up so every often in the immigration world, a powerful, but routinely silent, part of the law enforcement establishment reaching out to a linguistically handicapped minority just outside the Hispanic community.

One of the elements I have in mind is the prison-for-hire business that has grown so strong in recent years. Strong, but silent. One rarely hears about their activities and yet these corporations manage, for a price, most of the detention facilities run by the Department of Homeland Security. Read more...

Aliens and Money: Let's Look at the Big Picture

By David North, February 26, 2016

Suppose there are two stacks of money, which can either be used in our economy or in that of some other nation. In each case there is an alien population tied to the money.

One stack consists of $2-3 billion dollars.

The other stack consists of more than $50 billion and growing.

Which stack of dollars do you think would get the most attention from our policy makers? The big one or the little one?

You might think that the little stack would be ignored, and all the attention would be paid to the big one — the one worth $50 billion-plus.

You would be wrong. Read more...