Just one day after President Trump signed the spending bill with its provision to continue the EB-5 visa program, a member of his extended family was in China selling condos along with an implicit promise of a fast track to U.S. citizenship for wealthy buyers.
We all heard this. What I didn’t know is that such promises are business as usual.
Members of the Trump/Kushner family, among others, have made millions on the EB-5 visa program (one that allows fast-track citizenship for foreigners investing $500,000 or more in the United States). As an example, before entering the White House Jared Kushner raised $50 million, or one-quarter of his construction costs, for a New Jersey project through EB-5 visa investments.
In stark contrast, President Trump is urging on ICE to arrest and deport non-millionaire immigrants. This week we heard on 60 Minutes about Roberto Beristain, an Indiana restaurant owner of Mexican origin–a tax payer and model citizen with no police record of any sort who was also a legal holder of a work permit, a social security number, and a driver’s license. He went into his local ICE office for his mandatory annual check, was arrested on the spot, and deported.
There’s something incredibly wrong in America when the wealthiest of foreigners can buy their way in while hard-working immigrants–no different than most our great grandparents or great-greats–are deported.
For Beristain, twenty years of the kind of law-abiding, back-breaking work our ancestors knew bought him only a one-way ticket across the border, probably meaning he’ll never be allowed to return. Probably meaning, too, that the 20 people he employed will lose their jobs.
And the really, really shocking thing to me? Over the years Beristain, as the owner of a popular restaurant, would have contributed much more than $500,000 in taxes and services to the United States—money that went directly into the economy, not into off-shore or other tax havens.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump said, “The fundamental problem with the immigration system in our country is that it serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists, and powerful, powerful politicians.”
True enough. And now that Donald Trump is the country’s most powerful politician, the only questions left seem to be how much money the families of powerful, powerful politicians can mint from programs like the EB-5 visa and how many non-millionaires they can deport.
Put this in context of larger socio-economic issues—like the widening gap between the obscenely rich and everyone else. The economy keeps growing but every year real earnings drop. In 2013, for example, the average 27 y/o man earned 31 percent less annually than the same age man in 1969, and the gap has widened since 2013. If this trend continues, and laws that make the rich richer can only accelerate its growth. So, what hope does this leave for our children and grandchildren?
Make America great again? The shameless legislating of money to the already wealthy (see the House health care bill for just one more example) and the planned deportation of tens of thousands of people like Roberto Beristain do nothing to make America great. Rather, such actions serve simply to solidify the hold the plutocrats (wealth-holders) have on the economy and on our government.
Member, Wyoming Rising–Northwest