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Monday, May 4, 2009

Separating Capital from Cowpoop: Koreans Buy Green Cards by Funding South Dakota Feedlots

I was doing some more reading on Rick Millner's Veblen dairy operations and other atrocious feedlots. I've noted before that South Dakota state government takes a pro-immigration policy to promote our factory dairies. Turns out that pro-immigration policy includes helping wealthy foreigners jump the queue and buy their green cards.

South Dakota's EB-5 program helps foreigners get EB-5 visas, a special kind of employment-based visa. The deal:
  1. Invest $500K in a business venture in a "distressed" area.
  2. Receive conditional green cards for you and your whole immediate family.
  3. Provide evidence that your investment created ten jobs.
  4. Receive premanent green cards.
You don't have to work at the feedlot or meatpacking plant or ethanol plant your money supports. You don't even have to live in the same community. You never have to smell the manure lagoons or hear the whine of the ethanol processing equipment that keeps your "neighbors" up at night. You just buy your way into America, go live wherever you want, and send your kids to good American colleges, while thousands of other less-wealthy applicants go through the regular, arduous, sometimes years-long process of winning the same privilege to pursue their dreams in America.

Mr. Millner evidently got his current Veblen operation off the ground with 27 such queue-jumping Korean investors (just curious: anyone up in Veblen see an increase in demand for Korean groceries at the store?). This list also shows the Swiers got a couple Korean investors to buy their green cards by investing in their dairy operation here in Lake County. (Huh—I didn't know Lake County was a "distressed" area.)

The investors don't appear terribly concerned about the long-term profitability or sustainability of the projects they make possible. We should be doubly concerned: the fact that these projects can't snag regular investors without offering the additional carrot of expedited immigration to America should put up red flags about their financial viability. And when the money to run a "farm" comes from someone who doesn't live on the land, who never sees the land, who doesn't care about the land, that tells me we are going to come out on the short and stinky end of the externalities stick.

(One commentator takes the position that such investment-for-immigration is a heck of a deal, alleging that a lot of these economically unviable projects would likely end up drawing government pork. There's always a bright side. Better to have wealthy foreigners than American taxpayers on the hook... I guess.)

The EB-5 program has a "money for nothing" feel to it... and "money for nothing" usually works out badly. If these foreign investors view their $500K as an immigration fee rather than an actual investment, they won't hold the dairies and other businesses as accountable as would investors operating from the proper capitalist motivation. And an immigration policy favoring irresponsible investors denies places in America for folks who can't buy their green card but who are willing to come to America and invest their capital and their lives in the same community.


  1. Luckily my ancestors didn't have to provide capital to get off the boat after the long ride from eastern Europe in the mid 1800's and my wife's pennyless Jewish grandfather was allowed off the boat from Holland in 1910.

  2. This surprises me. I've been to South Korea several times and thought they had a very comparable lifestyle to our own here. I am honestly surprised they would want to actively move here.

    I'm not terribly concerned about the rich buying their way here. Generally such people have already spent most of their time in a similar culture and have been "americanized". The generation of wealth around the world is an amazing thing. More and more places have adopted our culture and morals as they have become wealthy. It's nice to be able to look out across the globe and recognize that there are many places one could move to and live a nearly identical "american" style life.

  3. Ah, but I'm sure there are plenty of less wealthy applicants who are just as ready to fit in to the American lifestyle. Nick's family seems to have turned out well from their humble origins. Why should some people get to buy their way out of the lengthy scrutiny and paperwork that most immigrants to our country have to face?

  4. Rich people will always be able to buy their way around in this world to some extent, I suppose.

    What would society actually be like if no one could buy any special privileges of this sort whatsoever?

    Put another way: What laws would be needed to make it impossible for anyone to buy more rights than their peers have? Would we get a cure that's worse than the disease?

  5. Anon sneaks in to suggest bigotry in my complaint. Au contraire. The only discrimination going on here is a shady immigration polict that lets people jump the queue by dumping money into bad business ventures. It's unfair, and it's bad for capitalism.


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