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Washington Post: Growing Number of Wealthy Immigrants Investing in American Business

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Here’s an interesting story you don’t hear every day — yet another way in which immigration is a vital piece of our economic recovery.

Under the EB-5 visa program, which was established in 1990, immigrants who have created at least 10 US jobs with their investment of $500,000 – $1 million can be granted legal permanent residency. An appropriate thank you, don’t you think, for those who are creating jobs in a country desperately in need of them?

According to the Washington Post , the number of immigrants taking advantage of the program tripled from 1,443 in 2008 to 4,218 in 2009, partly because the recession motivated the government to streamline often slow-moving procedures — and the benefits of doing so have been tremendous. The Washington Post reports:

Statistics on the total invested through the EB-5 program are not available, but the capital infusion has been a boon to Washington area businesses. The Capitol Area Regional Center, a real estate investment fund based in the District, has been working to raise a projected $250 million from immigrant investors for use in Washington area construction projects. …”Normally, to get equity capital to these areas is almost impossible,” said Michael Wallach, chief operating officer of the corporation.

Though a city benefits monetarily, it’s not always true or likely that the investor does. In fact, the Post reports it as “unlikely” that Eric Canal-Forgues, a participant in the EB-5 program who invested half a million in a regional center that funded the construction of a Philadelphia-based project, “will get more than a 1 percent return by the five-year point at which he will be allowed to withdraw his money. That will barely cover the roughly $50,000 in administrative costs of his investment, let alone the loss of value because of inflation.”

This example pokes yet another hole in the stubborn myth that immigrants and immigration reform would hurt American workers, as does a report released earlier this week by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center.  The report finds that legalizing undocumented immigrants would create revenue of $1.5 trillion over 10 years, and support 750,000-900,000 jobs.  And a month ago, both Labor Secretary Locke and Commerce Secretary Solis stated that comprehensive immigration reform would strengthen the US economy.

As Seth Hoy at Immigration Impact writes, commenting on the recent uptick in investments:

While state and local governments continue to dig themselves out of the current economic recession, the message here is clear — immigrants are not only an economic benefit, but an economic necessity.