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July 2016, Volume 22, Number 3

DHS: Migrants, Asylum, Investors

The US had 42.2 million foreign-born residents in 2014; they were 13.2 percent of the 320 million US residents. In 1970, the US had fewer than 10 million foreign-born residents, six percent of US residents.

About half of US foreign-born residents are from Latin America and the Caribbean; 30 percent are from Mexico. Another quarter of US immigrants are from Asia, led by China, India and the Philippines. Almost half of all US foreign-born residents are naturalized US citizens.

May 1, Labor Day in most countries, was celebrated around the US to honor immigrants with rallies organized by unions and migrant rights groups.

The US has 3,142 counties, and in 370 of them most residents are not non-Hispanic whites. These so-called minority majority counties include almost a third of Americans, and are concentrated in the southwest. Three-fourths of US residents over 55 are white, but only half of those under 18 are white.

Asylum. DHS's CBP unit reported apprehending 264,000 unauthorized foreigners just inside the Mexico-US border in the first eight months of FY16, more than in the same period a year earlier. In May 2016, CBP apprehended almost 6,000 unaccompanied minors and 7,000 family units, typically mothers and children.

Most unaccompanied minors and family units are Central Americans who travel through Mexico and apply for asylum at the US border, citing drug-related violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as the reason they need refuge in the US. Many of the applicants are teens under 18 and mothers with children.

As the number of Central American asylum seekers in the US rose in 2016, the Obama administration announced plans to deport more of those whose applications for asylum have been rejected. Advocates say that over 85 percent of Central Americans go before immigration judges without lawyers, and that lack of legal representation explains why Central American requests for asylum are often denied.

The Obama administration in 2015 launched a program to allow Central Americans to apply for refuge in the US from their home countries, but only 300 were approved as of May 2016. Similarly, only 2,800 of the 10,000 Syrian refugees that Obama promised to accept in FY16 had been admitted by May 2016, largely because of extensive security screenings.

The US plans to accept 80,000 refugees in FY16, up from the usual 70,000. In the first eight months of FY16, the leading countries of origin of refugees resettled in the US were Burma, 8,100; Congo, 6,400; Somalia, 5,800; and Iraq, 5,400.

EB-5. The US makes up to 10,000 immigrant visas a year available to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in projects that create at least 10 jobs in targeted employment areas (TEAs) with high unemployment rates. Most foreigners invest via private regional centers that pool investments, and the centers count indirect job creation toward the visa requirements in the TEA.

The EB-5 visa was created in 1990, and in 1993 private regional centers were allowed to propose TEAs to states for approval. Regional centers select at least one census tract with high unemployment to make the adjacent tracts part of the TEA. For example, Hudson Yards luxury housing in mid-Manhattan is considered a TEA because it includes census tracts in Harlem. There are proposals to change the definition of TEAs.

As with several other visas created in 1990, EB-5 expanded slowly, but once private firms were in place to market immigrant visas schemes, applications increased, especially from Chinese.

Jay Peak Resort in northeastern Vermont was created by a regional center that raised over $350 million from 750 foreigners. In April 2016, the SEC alleged that over half of the money raised from foreigners seeking EB-5 visas was misused, and $50 million was "looted" by Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. They promised seven projects, several of which were built. Some of the foreigners who invested may not receive green cards because the projects in which they invested were not built and will not generate the required jobs.

The Orlando City soccer team, owned by a Brazilian who obtained an immigrant visa via Jay Peak, is offering foreigners who invest $500,000 in a planned $156 million, 25,000-seat stadium two season tickets and immigrant visas. The team hopes to cover half of the cost of the stadium with foreign investor funds.

Investment-visas are controversial. Canada ended its investor-visa program in 2014, saying it was marred by fraud, and the UK tightened regulations on its Tier 1 investor visa that requires a $3 million investment after fraud was discovered. Greece offers a golden visa that provides five years residency for a property investment of at least $285,000, but few golden visas have been issued.

Most investors seeking investor visas are Chinese, and they have proven reluctant to invest in programs that require more significant investments. For example, after Australia's Significant Investor Visa program required A$5 million ($3.9 million) to be invested in growth assets in Australia, applications fell sharply, since the investments would put their money at risk. Previously, Chinese investors bought Australian government bonds.

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