An old joke comes to mind whenever I see anything about immigration programs with names like "investor" or "entrepreneurial" visas. The story, variously attributed to Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, W.C. Fields, and others, goes something like this:
Two people are sitting at an upscale bar having drinks. One individual says to the other, "Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?" The second individual, taken aback, looks carefully into the other's eyes and sees nothing there but seriousness. After a few moments pause, the second individual says, "Yes, in truth, I think I would."
The first individual then follows up with, "Would you sleep with me for ten bucks?" The second individual, visibly outraged, says, "No! What kind of person do you think I am?"
The first says, "We've already established that, now all we're doing is haggling over the price."
The Immigration and Nationality Act already authorizes cash-for-visa programs, and they have been a disaster. Frauds perpetrated by government-approved middlemen who are little more than con artists have been a commonplace. Some of the people who have applied and been approved for the program are no better, and have been fugitives accused of crimes in their country, often of a fiscal nature such as embezzlement or corruption. (My colleague David North has written frequently about EB-5 investor visa fraud.)
The government agency responsible for program oversight, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has shown itself to be either unwilling or too inept to instill integrity into virtually any facet of the program. Some members of Congress have tried to spike the program, which had a sunset date that was extended by sleight of hand through insertion into the most recent budget appropriations act. It is like a vampire that refuses to die for lack of enough garlic or a sufficiently sharp stake.
Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that two Republican members of Congress have introduced a bill to replace the equally worthless Diversity Visa Lottery program with a new high-stakes "green cards for cash" program. The two Republicans are Dana Rohrabacher (of California) and John Carter (of Texas).
For a mere million bucks, the program would not only provide the "purchasers" with resident alien status, but in two short years grease the skids for them to become citizens through naturalization. For most people it takes five years of residency before they can even apply, which brings us full circle back to my reference to the above stupid joke.
I'm wondering what is it about the last presidential election cycle that these two members of Congress didn't understand, where Americans' feelings about reform of the immigration laws is concerned. Granted, the visa lottery program is also an abysmal loser. But what they are proposing is a poison pill that would simply substitute one fatally flawed program with another.
Now, in fairness to the two cosponsors I have not actually read the text of the legislation — only media representations of what's in it — because it isn't to be found yet on any official site that I've seen.
On the other hand, we have this from Rep. Rohrabacher: "Importantly, the legislation would require that such visa and citizenship seekers meet the same admissibility and vetting requirements that pertain to all such visa and citizenship seekers."
Saints preserve us! Where has Rep. Rohrabacher been in the last several years? The vetting procedures in use by USCIS have repeatedly proven themselves to be grossly inadequate at screening out fraudsters, criminals, fugitives, human rights abusers, and terrorists.
Why would we welcome the application of those selfsame processes to a whole new giveaway program whose only real qualification is your bank account? And, truth be known, in this age of haves and have-nots, a million bucks isn't really that much money. Does anyone doubt that a new cash-for-green-card program, with its additional slots on top of those available in the failed EB-5 program, would be a huckster's dream?