Selective Truth-Telling in this Morning's Washington Post

By David North on March 22, 2013

Yes, it is true, if you look hard enough there will be a saint or two in the federal prison system. I suspect there will also be a Harvard Law graduate or two. But no news article on the prison population would dream of selecting the imprisoned Harvard grad as the poster child for the population of those jails.

An article in this morning's Washington Post, on the other hand, headlined "Betting the farm — for green cards", picks a highly atypical family that benefits from the immigrant investor (EB-5) program as its poster children.

The investors are from Holland; the vast majority of EB-5 investors are from China and elsewhere in Asia. The investors live in the United States with their children, two of whom are college-age; the overwhelming percentage of the EB-5 investors live overseas. The investors, Rene and Judith Dekker, run a dairy farm (a nice-looking Holstein covers much of the top half of the first page of the paper); 99 percent-plus of EB-5 investors are urban types.

Further, in this highly unusual case, the adult Dekkers can stay in the United States as long as their farm stays in business, but without EB-5 status their adult children would have had to leave the country as they "aged out" of their family's nonimmigrant E-2 (temporary investor) visa category. In most EB-5 cases the families are together in some other part of the world, and are in no danger of separation

So, in addition to a highly unusual investor family, we have one of the handful where there is the possibility that some members might have to leave the country were they to fall into illegal status, something that happens very, very rarely. (Why the young Dekkers don't just apply for foreign student (F-1) status is not explained.)

There is nothing untrue about any of this, but it is a highly selective bit of truth-telling that fits with the media's rosy picture of immigrants generally, and the EB-5 program specifically.

The reporter, Kevin Sullivan, was both pleasant and well-informed on the phone, spelled my name correctly, quoted my opposition to the program accurately, and actually quoted me before mentioning the opposing view by one of America's leading establishmentarians (Larry Summers, ex-president of Harvard and ex-Secretary of the Treasury). And while I found no mistakes in his reporting, the total ambience of the story was loving.

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We hear that the Dekkers' "chocolate Lab bounced around outside" while daughter "Susanne gently scooped her live goldfish into a plastic bag."

My CIS colleague, Mark Krikorian, commented to me sarcastically: "I'm surprised they omitted that the daughter is a cheerleader and they volunteer to wash the feet of the poor at their church."

Here are several real omissions from the story:

  • The Dekkers made a $500,000 investment for the family's full set of green cards, thus were getting them at the bargain rate of $100,000 each; there are three children; this real cost is not mentioned.

  • The investment was in a Marriott hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. If investments are made in non-depressed areas, such as our nation's capital, they are supposed to be at the $1 million level; did some DC authorities, with strong Marriott encouragement, engage in some economic gerrymandering to make the hotel appear to be in a slum and thus eligible for the $500,000-level investments? Is Marriott going to advertise that this hotel is in a really depressed area, when in fact it is near the convention center, a neighborhood that has been rapidly gentrifying for years? There is nothing in the story about how this variable applied to this lushly sited investment.

  • And most importantly, there is an enormous flow of money into the U.S. economy from overseas, all the time. In one recent year, when $1.9 trillion was recorded as additional foreign investment in the United States, $99.90 of every $100 came in through channels (like buying stocks and bonds) other than the little one operated by the EB-5 program.

Sullivan's story had a special impact on me, because I know that dairying (the most demanding of all farm lives) is a terrible way to make a living; both my late grandfather (Holsteins) and my late father (Jerseys) owned dairy farms when I was a kid, but neither actually lived on those farms. I, in turn, but only for a couple of months while I was in high school, had to milk a recalcitrant Jersey twice a day; it is a rough life.

But, as a matter of policy, the EB-5 program is really a silly little program that lets rich people (and moderately rich ones) buy green cards on the open market. It is tacky. It should be allowed to die, or, if it is to continue, the cost per visa should be much higher, and the money should be used not for Marriotts, but to reduce the national debt.