Psssst: Want Some Purloined Immigration Policy Research?

By David North on May 2, 2010

Immigration policy research is rarely thought of as sexy.

Beautiful women do not come up to you at a party and say, breathily, "That's a wonderful piece of analysis."

But there is a sort of cloak-and-dagger romance in the way that the August Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, more or less releases its studies.

It distributes the reports to its sponsor, the Congress, for congressional use only.

Then, after a while, someone leaks them to intermediaries, who put them on the net. Among these distributors are "OpenCRS," a project of the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Immigration Daily. There are several other sites as well.

OpenCRS explains in its website that "American taxpayers spend over $100 million a year to fund the Congressional Research Service . . . yet, [their] reports are not made available to the public in a way that they can be easily obtained." So, they play the role of an intellectual Robin Hood, with the reports on immigration and many other subjects.

The reports are written by CRS staff members, who are identified. They provide very thorough background information on various subjects, replete with legal references and copious footnotes, tables and graphs. The reports sometimes follow an issue over the years, and there are updated reports published (and leaked) later from time to time.

The collection of these reports is a major resource. A website for finding many of the more recently leaked titles can be found at the end of this blog.

I communicated with someone on the inside of CRS and that person told me "I have no idea who does the releasing. Sometimes it is the day after the report goes to the Congress, and sometimes it is months or years later." It is probably somebodies, not somebody; first, the report is read by someone on the Hill, who finds it useful, and then it finds its way to one or more of the various middleman websites.

Since I had written a couple of blog postings about the investor visas, a crass program that allows those with money to buy their way, and their family's way, to America, I was intrigued with one of the purloined reports entitled "Foreign Investor Visas: Policies and Issues" by Chad C. Haddal; it is dated February 24, 2009, but it only appeared on the Immigration Daily website in the last few days. (Haddal is not the source of the quotation above.)

The Haddal report is long, careful in content and in tone, and is not one of those investigative reports written by GAO or by Inspectors General. It deals with the program's history, the law creating it, the early years in which there was little interest in the program, and the characteristics of the beneficiaries. On the latter point, the largest single group of the nonimmigrant investors are from Japan, the largest single group of the far less numerous immigrant investors are from Taiwan, and more of them live in California than anywhere else.

The total number of admissions in FY 2007, the year before the demand soared for the immigrant visas, was: 229,642 in the nonimmigrant categories (E-1 and E-2), 2,168 admissions in the immigrant investor class. While the nonimmigrant admissions do not automatically lead to a green card, the document can be renewed, apparently readily, for a series of two-year extensions.

Unlike the Inspectors General reports, there is no careful examination in this CRS report of a sample of cases, a research technique that uncovers fraud, if fraud is, indeed, present in a program.

For what seems to be a comprehensive list of CRS reports that deal with immigration issues, see the collection maintained by Immigration Daily.