Sunday, June 8, 2008

Millionaire visa turns citizenship into a commodity!

For the second time in six months, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel economics writer John Schmid has written about local efforts to establish a private equity firm financed by Chinese millionaires.

This isn't the first time the MJS has given significant coverage to unproven economic development schemes. Remember the three part, front page series promoting Johnson Controls' Metro Markets? Or the ink devoted to the Initiative for a Competitive Milwaukee?

The FirstPathway Citizenship Fund promises legal residency to Chinese nationals who invest a million dollars or more.

The program, administered through the Department of Homeland Security, is certainly an improvement over the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first law in US history that restricted immigration.

But it's a perversion of the Statue of Liberty's inspirational call to: " Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

These words by Emma Lazarus inspired generations of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Italy, Mexico and many other countries to come to Milwaukee, often with little more than the clothes on their back, a willingness to work and dreams for a better life.

But not any more. Milwaukee's new economy motto will read: "Give us your rich, your well- heeled elites, yearning to breathe free. No more of China's polluted air and shores, Send these millionaires to me, I lift my lead painted lamp to their hordes of gold!"

While the feds are arresting and deporting thousands of wealth-creating, tax-paying immigrant workers and entrepreneurs, often breaking up their families in the process, they are eager to sell citizenship rights to millionaires to finance a private equity firm that has not created a single job. We might as well rename the EB-5 visa the millionaire's visa!

PE firms are notorious for leveraging large amounts of debt against the companies they purchase. Then, to increase profit margins and cover their debts, they eliminate jobs, decrease service, and/or slash employees' wages and benefits. They also use tax loopholes, such as carried interest and the tax deductibility of interest, to avoid tax liabilities. They cash out by selling the company.

Is this a strategy that will revitalize Milwaukee's labor market?

Citizenship is not a commodity. Turning it into one makes a mockery of the this nation's history and ideals.

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