New York Times Op-Ed All Wrong on EB-5

By David North on July 11, 2014

I was both depressed and intrigued by the sloppy thinking, and writing, that marked today's op-ed piece on immigration in the New York Times signed by Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates.

Their comments in favor of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program were particularly interesting because I seriously doubt if any of these three multi-billionaires has ever come anywhere near the penny-ante EB-5 program in their own businesses. Do guys like these ever bother with a program that raises money $500,000 at a time? With each and every investment festooned in government forms and regulations?

EB-5, as I have watched the program over the years, builds some suburban malls, office structures, and hotels; it never has a chance to buy into major activities such as Adelson's casinos (in Macau, for example) or into Bill Gates' Microsoft. EB-5 also has been involved in a series of scandals and bankruptcies, such as a shuttered beef slaughterhouse in South Dakota, and a huge hotel scam in Chicago, as we have noted in the past.

That the trio's description of the EB-5 program is woefully wrong probably flows out of their own ignorance of the program, and that of their ghost writer or writers. But, hey, it is vaguely pro-migrant so it must be good. Right?

Let's look at what they wrote on the subject:

For example, the EB-5 "immigrant investor program," created by Congress in 1990, was intended to allow a limited number of foreigners with financial resources or unique abilities to move to our country, bringing with them substantial and enduring purchasing power. ... People willing to invest in America and create jobs deserve the opportunity to do so.

There are three major errors in those few lines.

First, EB-5 will not create a visa for someone with "unique abilities". All one needs is the ability to write a check for $500,000. That's all. Other nations want their migrant investors to manage the business, or speak the language, or be below a certain age. In the United States it's only money that counts. There are no other demands. None.

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Second, there is no requirement that someone "move to our country". Most of the interest in the EB-5 program comes from worried Chinese rich people who do not necessarily want to come to the United States; what they want is the legal right to do so should things turn unpleasant in their homeland. Some do move here, many do not.

Third, we are told that "people willing to invest in America" should be allowed to do so.

Of course, no one quarrels with that. But 99-plus percent of all new foreign investment comes without anyone doing any migrating. What the trio is saying is that anyone who wants to migrate to America on the basis of a half-million dollar investment should be allowed to get a family-sized collection of green cards; i.e., buy their way into this country. That's a rather different point, and a highly controversial one.

I was saddened to see Warren Buffett, whom I regard as a generally good guy (and totally correct on tax issues) allow his name to be linked with that of the ultra-right wing casino magnate Adelson.