Archive for March 17th, 2008

NY Times

Brian Goulding recently moved with his wife, Majella, and three young children to Wilmington, N.C. ”It’s gorgeous here,” he said, referring to the region’s temperate climate.

But Mr. Goulding also has a strong interest in the colder environs of northern Vermont and, specifically, the success of a new hotel at the Jay Peak ski resort, five miles from the Canadian border. If the hotel, expected to open next fall, succeeds, Mr. Goulding and his family, who are from Ireland, will be allowed to remain in the United States.

The Gouldings are among the beneficiaries of a program that grants foreigners legal residency in the United States if they invest in job-creating businesses. ”If, in two years, the project has delivered the employment to the state of Vermont,” Mr. Goulding said, he will receive a permanent green card. ”If the project collapses,” he said, ”I won’t.”

But Bill Stenger, the president and chief operating officer of Jay Peak, doesn’t see much danger of the project failing. At a time when bank loans are becoming harder to get, Mr. Stenger said he had received the money he needs to construct the hotel — $17.5 million — from 35 investors, all of whom are hoping to become permanent residents of the United States.

Under the program, known as EB-5, a foreigner receives a green card for investing $500,000 in a business in a rural or high-unemployment area. With currency exchange rates what they are — the dollar has fallen sharply against the euro and British pound — the required investment ”is very affordable to many foreigners,” Mr. Stenger said.

To tap into that source of capital, Mr. Stenger formed an alliance with Rapid USA Visas, which has offices in Naples, Fla., and in London. The company’s clients are looking to make their homes in the United States — in many cases, as retirees in the Sun Belt. (Under the law creating the EB-5 visas, they need never set foot in the state where the money is invested.)

”It’s win-win-win,” said Steve Yale-Loehr, an EB-5 expert who teaches immigration law at Cornell University: the business gets capital, residents get jobs and the investor gets a green card.

The program hasn’t always been a hit. In the 1990s, what was then the Immigration and Naturalization Service had a hard time keeping tabs on whether EB-5 investments were creating jobs. ”There were fears that the program wasn’t achieving its intended purpose,” Mr. Yale-Loehr said. But the agency, renamed Citizenship and Immigration Services, has since found a way to streamline the process by permitting entities outside the federal government, called regional centers, to screen investors and monitor job creation.

As a result, Mr. Yale-Loehr said, ”the EB-5 program has risen from the ashes.” Of the 10,000 EB-5 visas available each year, 5,000 are set aside for investors in regional centers.

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At the behest of Microsoft and other large corporations, Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) introduced a bill that would double the number of immigrant worker visas available each year under the H-1B program.

HR 5630, the so-called ‘Innovation Employment Act,’ would increase the cap in H-1B visas from 65,000 a year to 130,000 a year. Moreover, there would be absolutely no limit on the number of H-1B visas for foreigners who came as graduate students in technical fields to U.S. colleges.

The legislation would also increase the H-1B cap to 180,000 from 2010 to 2015 if the 130,000 cap were reached the year before.

While promoted as a reform of the H-1B program, the bill does nothing to prevent employers from using the program as a source of cheap labor to displace American workers. It would do serious damage to the American information technology sector, discouraging future students from entering these technological disciplines.


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MEXICO CITY - Cases of corrupt Mexican police kidnapping undocumented Central American migrants for ransom as they travel overland to the United States are on the rise, a United Nations official said on Saturday.

Jorge Bustamante, the U.N.’s special investigator for migrant rights, said extorting ransoms from migrants could be more lucrative for unscrupulous police than working for drug smuggling gangs.

“They kidnap migrants, ask them for information, relatives’ phone numbers; then they extort money from the families,” Bustamante said, presenting the conclusions of a week-long study of how undocumented migrants are treated in Mexico.

Bustamante told a news conference both federal and local police were involved in kidnapping rackets on Mexico’s northern and southern borders. “It’s an abuse and it’s increasing,” he said.

Tens of thousands of poor Central Americans make the long trek north through Mexico each year on their way to cross the U.S. border illegally. Many are mistreated and forced to pay bribes by both criminal gangs and police.

Bustamante said he met a Salvadoran man in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula who said his wife was still missing after police recently abducted and held the couple.

“It’s a big business that involves everyone from taxi drivers to police chiefs. It’s a business whose profits rival those of drug trafficking,” Bustamante said.

Bustamante, who was invited to carry out his study by the Mexican government, criticized Mexico for doing little to improve the lot of migrants on its territory while at the same time demanding better treatment from the United States of illegal Mexican migrants there.

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SAN BERNARDINO - In the best of economic times, it’s tough being a day laborer.

With the economy slumping, it’s nearly impossible.

“There’s very little work. It’s very bad,” said Juan Rosales, a 64-year-old illegal immigrant from El Salvador.

Standing with a handful of day laborers on a sidewalk in front of the Home Depot in north San Bernardino, Rosales said he is lucky to bring home $150 a week doing construction work. That’s about half the amount he used to make when the economy was robust.

On a recent weekday morning, about 50 men clustered in small groups waited for contractors and homeowners to drive by and offer them temporary jobs as gardeners, plumbers, painters, carpenters and construction workers.

There were few offers and even fewer jobs.

“We’re becoming desperate,” said Roberto Panuco, a 57-year-old immigrant from Durango, a state in northern Mexico.


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Daily News

A young Asian woman arrives in Southern California with the promise of a restaurant job and a generous invitation to live for free in her employer’s home as she acclimates to her new world.

“I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was living the American dream,” authorities said Thonglim Khamphiranon told friends in her native Thai language.

But the promise of $240 a month to work in a Thai restaurant in the San Fernando Valley turned out to be a nightmare.

Her passport was confiscated, Khamphiranon later told activists battling human trafficking, and her ties to the outside world were cut. For six years in the late 1990s, she slaved up to 18 hours a day both at her employer’s restaurant and at the woman’s home, where Khamphiranon slept on the floor and served her boss on her knees.

It happened not in some ethnic Third World pocket of Los Angeles but in an upscale neighborhood in Woodland Hills.

Khamphiranon had become a victim in the estimated $9 billion global industry of human trafficking.

“If it can happen in Woodland Hills, it can happen anywhere,” said Kay Buck, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, an organization that aids victims of the modern-day slave trade.

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