- - Tuesday, May 29, 2018

There is a continuing fight, both in the country and within the Republican Party, on the issue of immigration. There’s an anti-immigration wing that wants to slow even legal immigration, a faction that wants to let in almost anybody, and a faction that wants to make it easier to bring people into the country who can help grow the economy and create jobs.

The first and second groups presumably will never agree with each other, but it seems that everyone should agree with the third group. Immigrants who unambiguously increase the nation’s per-capita gross domestic product are a win-win. That’s the goal of the EB-5 program, which allows foreigners to pledge a certain amount of investment that will result in the creation of American jobs in exchange for permanent resident status.

Yet not everyone supports this idea. In The Washington Times on May 16, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, made the case that Obama-era regulations that would sabotage the program “are a valuable first step that would curtail abuse in the program and bolster job creation and economic growth in rural and distressed areas.”

The congressmen cite the failure to pass their bipartisan proposal as reason to justify regulatory action over legislation. Despite a brief acknowledgment of the problem of “unconstitutional executive overreach,” they exhibit little understanding of how the executive branch has moved so far beyond its constitutional constraints.

Presidents often seek to expand their power, but the biggest blows to constitutional checks and balances come in the form of congressional abdication of the responsibility to make law. Too often members of Congress would rather diminish their own constitutional roles in order to dodge accountability by allowing unelected bureaucrats to make policy. While Republicans have control of the House, Senate and executive branch, they should try to change policy through legislation, yet they have not made a good-faith effort to even try.

That two prominent members of Congress are now repeating this folly under the guise of “restoring integrity” to anything is a shame. The fact is that this is a good program that may need some reforms, yet not “reforms” designed to cripple the program. A reform and expansion of the program would add new jobs and investment in U.S. infrastructure in a free-market-based manner. The free market naturally will provide a magnet for more investment into urban areas, and the way to get more investment in rural areas is to expand the program, not to micromanage through regulation.

Regulations drafted by the Obama Department of Homeland Security would stifle the program while doing the opposite of what the members of Congress argue — more regulation would hurt economic growth and lower job creation. It seems like a distraction to claim that some of the regional centers are “effectively run by the Chinese communist government,” because many of the investments have gone to urban areas in “Manhattan and other affluent areas.” Claiming that massive investments that create jobs for construction workers and help revitalize areas of urban cities are part of a communist plot underscore the desperate arguments being deployed to denigrate the program.

Studies indicate that this program has been an economic success. The American Action Forum issued a report in January about the EB-5 program using Department of Commerce and other government data. They concluded that “EB-5 immigrants have invested at least $20 billion in the U.S. economy since 2008, with over $5 billion invested in 2017 alone” and “projects associated with EB-5 investments have created over 174,000 jobs, which equates to approximately 16 jobs per investor.” Members of Congress should be expanding programs that create jobs and bring in billions in foreign investment into the United States, because that idea is consistent with a merit-based immigration system.

The EB-5 program is clearly unique in that there is no case that the visa holders are competing with Americans for jobs nor any charge that these visa holders would become wards of the state. These individuals come to the United States to create American jobs, while insourcing foreign cash and infusing that wealth into projects that build up American infrastructure. The program arguably should be vastly expanded because every visa given out will bring home jobs and cash. It is wrong to oppose the program because one thinks more of the money should be spent in a particular congressional district or state.

The EB-5 program is merit-based immigration that President Trump supports. The program brings in immigrants to invest, rather than taking American jobs, while creating new jobs for American citizens. President Obama proposed a midnight rule to sabotage the program by imposing new regulatory mandates without implementing an overall expansion of the program to provide some balance. For a White House that has promoted a policy of America First, this policy helps Americans to create investment here and to create jobs.

• Dan Mitchell is co-founder of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity and chairman of the board.

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