Rarely is the Washington Post right on immigration issues, but its lead editorial on Labor Day was exactly on target — it said that the nation should terminate the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program.
The main part of the program — which grants a full set of green cards to an alien family putting $500,000 into a Department of Homeland Security-approved, but not guaranteed, investment, is due to expire at the end of the month, just 22 days from now. The Post sees it as "corporate welfare".
I write this with a certain amount of professional envy gnawing at me. I have been a critic of the program for a long time, bemoaning the selling of visas and pointing out that the beneficiaries of the program are the American middlemen who secure low-cost funding for some of their real estate projects, usually in prosperous urban settings. Envious because I did not write these words:
Notice we haven't said EB-5 is wrong because it's immoral for the U.S. Government to sell visas. That's because, in effect, the government is giving away its visas to private businesses, who then market them for their own benefit. (Emphasis in the original.)
Well put, WaPo!
Two nuances, however. The whole program is not up for renewal, only the key part that allows the $500,000 investor to get visas for the whole family. There is another part of the program that is not about to expire. It calls for an exchange of a full million dollars for the visas; virtually no one has used it, with the investors, mostly from China, using the half-million option. The million-dollar part of the program demands that the investor run a business, while the half-million part calls for only a passive investment.
Also, the Post writes: "Let the thousands of visas set aside for EB-5 applicants be reassigned to immigrants who are worthy even if they are not rich."
If the main part of the EB-5 program is allowed to die, current immigration law would automatically re-distribute the visas to other alien workers and their families. Though it is generally not recognized, we permit the immigration of fully a million aliens a year, plus temporary workers in large numbers and illegal aliens in larger ones. Reducing the legal flow by 1 percent would seem to be a small step in the right direction.