Individuals and institutions with many options are usually more powerful than those with none or few.
Let’s think about a hypothetical white, male, high school senior who is both valedictorian of his class and an all-state quarterback, who has, to paraphrase Gershwin, a daddy who’s rich and a ma who’s good lookin’. He is likely to have many more options in college admissions than his non-athletic classmate, the child of high school dropouts, who struggles to maintain a C average.
The same is true in the immigration field: The president can make a wide range of decisions while the immigrant inspector at the airport can move in only two ways; he can admit the alien or refer her to secondary for further inquiries and actions.
Let’s see what some actors with options in the field did last week in this area.
Good Minor Decisions Within a Major Bad Decision. The Biden administration, unfortunately true to form, made a major decision to reduce the capacity of the migrant detention centers, but within this non-enforcement decision made some useful follow-on decisions. Were the detention centers to lose the size of their operations by the same fraction across the board, one logical way to manage the downsizing?
No, the government closed down one of its least attractive centers, the one in Etowah County, Ala., and said it would limit the use of three other ones in the south, citing different levels of problems in the four of them.
So a few good but lesser decisions were made on options available to the feds, within a disappointing larger one.
The Chinese Propagandist. Turning from how our government manages our immigration system, to how another government seeks to manipulate it, we find the specialized case of the Chinese propagandists and their efforts to exploit our immigration systems. My colleague George Fishman called to my attention the use of the H-1B visa by several pro-China organizations.
This little story reminds me that while sometimes our opponents are both terrible people and terribly good at what they do — like the Japanese forces at Pearl Harbor — that generalization does not always hold true.
In this case, we have pro-Chinese organizations that have access to just about every kind of visa issued by our government (with the exception of those rare NATO visas for the likes of Norwegian admirals) stupidly choosing the most difficult nonimmigrant visa of them all, the H-1B.
The H-1B visa has two major problems for employers (including foreign propagandists and spymasters); in the first place, it moves very slowly, and in the second it produces only about one-third of the specific people an employer wants.
Why not use the F-1 visa for students? The Chinese entities could get all the propagandists or spies they want by simply getting their favored individuals admitted, presumably at the grad school level, at institutions that admit everyone who applies. The grad students among them could then get work permits and take non-demanding courses that keep their visas alive. Once they get degrees, they could become OPT students for another year or three, depending on the course of study (STEM for three, not for one). Then after that, they could sign up for another grad degree and restart the process, all while doing the bidding of their masters in Beijing.
Other possibilities, each with major or minor drawbacks, are visas for diplomats (A), foreign journalists (I), or exchange fellows (J); there are no waiting lists in any of these categories and no numerical ceilings. With a lot more labor, the Chinese could check out relatives of U.S. citizens, living in China, who could use those relationships to secure family-based immigrant visas, and who would remain loyal to China despite their experiences in the States.
But no, they opted for the H-1B visa.
Fewer Options in EB-5. Looking at the number of options available to all concerned is a useful way of thinking about the future of the newly revived and revised EB-5 program. Whereas the U.S. government and the Chinese “information entities" have a substantial number of options, both the number of alien and citizen players in the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program has been reduced and each of the players has a much narrower set of options than a year ago.
Earlier this month, Congress, after an interruption of more than eight months, revived its authorization of the main part of the EB-5 program and changed the rules considerably for the better, leaving all concerned with fewer options.
There will be fewer alien players because the minimum entry cost has risen from $500,000 to $800,000; the number of citizen-run regional centers that pool the aliens' funds has been reduced in recent years as a flood of corruption decreased interest in the program; and those remaining in the game will have fewer geographical sites in which to place the investments. All of those are long-term trends.
In addition, for the next two months, no one will be able to file new petitions in the program as Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security some time to revive the ghost of EB-5.
I suspect that the EB-5 program of a year hence will be but a shadow of its former self.