Minor Migration Memos: Iran's Treaty Investors and New Jersey's H-4 Students

By David North on January 24, 2020

Two relatively minor bits of migration news caught my eye recently — the administration's decision to bar future treaty traders and investors from Iran, and New Jersey's decision to grant tuition benefits to the children of H-1B workers.

There is more irony than impact in each case.

Iran. USCIS has announced, given the termination of a treaty with Iran, that it will no longer permit the issuance of E-1 (Treaty Trader) or E-2 (Treaty Investor) visas to residents of Iran, but will allow those with such visas to stay in the United States until the end of their current permits.

The ironies are that: (1) the State Department has issued zero E-1 visas to Iranians in the 2015-2018 period and only 61 E-2s in those years; and (2) the treaty investors who will be expelled in the coming years, as their permits expire, belong to a population that really, really does not want to go home to Iran.

We pointed out in a posting on Iranians who have secured U.S. Social Security benefits, and/or PhDs, that they are less likely to leave this country than aliens (with those credentials) from any other nation in the world.

My sense is that an Iranian treaty investor, with an initial five-year visa in hand, is roughly comparable to the older workers from Iran with 10 years of Social Security credits, or the PhDs with their lengthy graduate years behind them. Those treaty investors, usually operators of small businesses, who probably despise the regime in Tehran, will want to stay here.

The ones being escorted out of the country in the future, by definition, are not newcomers to the States. They will all have at least five years here before they have to leave.

What role will they play once back in Iran? Will their voices add to the unrest because they do not like the Supreme Leader? Or will they be furious with the United States for kicking them out? Or all of the above?

Or will the CIA get creative and seek to make use of this small population in its operations?

New Jersey. The New Jersey legislature (and I have a slight tie to it) has approved, and Governor Phil Murphy (D) has signed, a bill that gives children of H-1B workers the right to pay in-state (i.e., reduced) tuition to N.J. colleges. Such students, by definition, came to the United States legally.

The irony here is that illegal aliens already had the right to the lower tuition rates, and hence were in a more privileged situation than the legal ones in H-4 status (that is the visa used for H-1B dependents). Thus, with the new legislation, New Jersey is no longer discriminating — in this specific way — in favor of those in illegal status.

My ties to the N.J. state legislature came two months after graduating from Princeton; party leaders in those days were obliged to run candidates for the state legislature, even though the chances of success were nil. I lived in heavily GOP Morris County, and the Democrats' fill-in candidate for the state assembly was a night watchman, and could not attend any night meetings. I could. So I was drafted for what was expected to be a losing campaign for that office. It was. By a large margin.

That was in 1951; I do not remember any mention of any immigration subject in the course of the campaign.