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On reforming EB-5: raise the price tag or auction off visas; then put money into infrastructure

Y'know, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is labeled right-wing and intolerant, and I don't defend their overall agenda. But analyst David North, one of the few people who looks critically and incisively at the EB-5 program, makes a lot more sense than the program's defenders, who keep claiming that cheap capital from immigrant investors actually creates jobs.

Writing 12/20/16, We Can Preserve the Flow of EB-5 Funds While Cutting the Number of Visas, North suggests some plausible reforms (though he'd prefer to kill the program).

First, he notes that, while the program involves 10,000 visas, investors bring their families, so this means some "4,000 new investments a year, bringing the annual total of EB-5 funds to about $2 billion."

His proposals, plus my comments:
--raise the price for investors to $750,000. 

Industry advocates are ready for $800,000, so this isn't much.

--auction the visas, with a $1 million floor, and stopping the auction when $2 billion is raised, thus maintaining the current flow, but with fewer investors/immigrants.

This would be interesting, because surely people would pay more, but it also would be a windfall for the few projects that would lure the investments, so I'm not sure this would "be a considerably better system," North says.

--put the funds, at $750,000 per investment, into infrastructure, rather than private projects.

"The industry middlemen, of course, would scream," writes North, but he's right that much of the value of the visas gets creamed by middlemen.

--run the auction, and then put the money into "infrastructure projects, like roads, bridges, and maybe a big fence at the southern border."

Perhaps, as he writes, the Trump White House would love this, since it would build a wall and make "rich Chinese pay." Of course, that suggests that the wall should be a priority, and there's strong argument to the contrary.

Generally, however, public infrastructure should serve the public at large, not well-positioned real-estate developers. Indeed, North's generally reasonable suggestions are not like those floated 2/22/13 in U.S. News by Dartmouth business professor John Vogel, who wrote Why Is the U.S. Government Selling Green Cards? and concluded:
One of the oddities about the EB-5 program is that the U.S. government is giving out the green cards, but the entrepreneur who puts together the investment gets the money. This scheme seems inefficient and open to corruption. If our government really believes that it is a good idea to sell green cards, maybe we should drop the pretense that this is a job creation program. It might be more efficient to have the money go directly to the U.S. Treasury and reduce the deficit by billions of dollars a year. In fact, the U.S. government could auction off these green cards and perhaps raise even more money.

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