Who Profits from Casino Visas? Well, There's Williamsburg, Ky. (Pop. 5,143)

By David North on December 19, 2009

We all know that the benefits of immigration are highly concentrated, on the immigrants themselves, their family members, their lawyers, and their employers – and that the costs of massive (low-income) migration are spread almost invisibly throughout society in terms of lower wages for many workers, and higher costs for many taxpayers.

That formula – concentrated benefits and nearly invisible costs – is politically useful to the Open Borders types, because the beneficiaries feel strongly, and the rest of society does not. It is the squeaking wheel principle. It's the same set of forces that allows Wall Street to get away with all those obscene bonuses.

But to return to the question: who profits from Casino Visas (technically known as the Diversity Visa Lottery)? Obviously there are 55,000 aliens each year who secure green cards, as mentioned in an earlier blog. Even though they have nothing to do with the U.S., no relatives here, no claims to refugee status, no employer, they can win a green card by sheer chance.

But there is also the little Kentucky hill town of Williamsburg (population 5,143 – 2000 census). It is a dozen miles north of the Tennessee border, sits on the Cumberland River near the Falls thereof, and has little to distinguish itself from other small towns in Appalachia.

What does distinguish it is the role it plays in the Casino Visa program.

Thanks to a veteran and well-connected congressman, Harold Rogers (R-KY), the ranking Republican on a key appropriations subcommittee, the Kentucky Consular Center, an obscure arm of the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, is located in Williamsburg.

This brings about 13,000,000 applications each year to the town, presumably benefitting the post office, and, more importantly, 115 State Department jobs with nice (for Appalachia, anyway) salaries. These are paid to the croupiers and their bosses who run the Casino that generates 55,000 visas-that-lead-to-green cards each year.

If you use the salary estimate of $50,000 per worker per year, and add in another $10,000 or 20% or so for those generous government fringes (full disclosure – I once enjoyed them but not in Kentucky), that comes to $60,000 x 115 = $6,900,000.

That is a nice piece of change for a little town almost surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Now while Williamsburg plays the role of facilitator in the admissions of 55,000 Casino Visa winners each year – and that population is just about ten times that of the small town – Williamsburg draws few, if any, of them into the town's own population.

In fact, ironically, Williamsburg is one of the least-immigrant-settled places in the nation; there were all of 53 foreign-born persons in town according to the 2000 census. That is one in 100 locally, while in the nation as a whole one in twelve is foreign-born.

Another irony is that Rep. Rogers was one of only six Republican House members who voted to continue the Casino Visa program, while the overwhelming majority of his GOP colleagues (215 of them) voted the other way when the issue came to the House Floor on December 16, 2005. The repeal of the program passed 273-148, but died in the Senate.

Maybe the congressman is a heart-felt believer in an Open Borders immigration policy, or maybe, just maybe, he was voting the narrow interests of one town in his district.