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Visas for sale: Not everyone’s a fan of Gov. Snyder’s EB-5 center


www.eb-5lawyers.com

June 11, 2014 | MPRN   Silverio emigrated from Mexico in the early ‘80s. He says there were many reasons for settling down and starting a business in Detroit.

“The properties were cheap, the rent was cheaper, plus we had family here already,” he said through Antonio, who translated from Spanish.

The Lopez family exemplifies the kind of people Gov. Snyder hopes to attract to Michigan - people with an entrepreneurial spirit who can create jobs.

But some critics of the governor’s new EB-5 visa program say it’s a slap in the face to immigrants like Silverio Lopez, who came here with nothing. Under EB-5, foreign investors must have at least $500,000 to put into a development project that creates at least ten jobs. In turn, that investor and his or her immediate family can all get visas to live or travel anywhere in the United States.

“We’re just letting somebody in simply because they have money,” said David North, a senior fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies – a think-tank in Washington DC.

“You can buy your way in,” said North. “All you have to do is put up half-a-million dollars. That’s sort of part of the system by which the elite get what they want and the rest of us get what’s left.”

The governor’s office has touted Michigan’s statewide EB-5 center as only the second of its kind in the county – the other being in Vermont. But that’s not accurate.

A third program in South Dakota has been riddled with controversy after investors’ money went missing, some visas were never issued, and the flagship development project failed miserably. But state officials say those aren’t issues with the EB-5 program itself. They’re problems with the people who oversaw South Dakota’s program.

“We’re well prepared to do this kind of investment,” said Scott Woosley, executive director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), which runs Michigan’s EB-5 center. “And I think that’s really what differentiates us from something that happened in South Dakota.”

Woosley says the state’s not interested in getting into a debate about whether it’s appropriate for immigrants to be able to buy their way into the US. He says it’s a no-brainer for the state to take advantage of a program that can attract investment and talent to Michigan and create jobs. Back in Southwest Detroit, Antonio Lopez says if the state really wants to boost its economy, it should focus on attracting poor immigrants like his father.

“Eventually, these people don’t want to work hard labor their whole lives,” said Lopez. “They want to start their own business, do something for their families. So I think, the poorly educated person that comes to work the hard labor, they’re actually going to work harder for their goal.”

This story is the first in Michigan Public Radio’s occasional series “Migrating to Michigan.”

We will explore Gov. Rick Snyder’s efforts to attract immigrants, as well as issues facing immigrants living or wishing to live here in Michigan.
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More Mid-Day Features
Friday
Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio Releases New CD
  September 19, 2014  |  WGVU  Drummer Gerry Gibbs is back with his Thrasher Dream Trio featuring masters Ron Carter on bass and Kenny Barron at the piano. The album "We're Back" is a collection of 1970's popular songs given a jazz treatment.    
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The Maze Runner plus three other new movies open today
  September 19, 2014  |  WGVU  Four new movies opening in theaters today, including the science fiction flick The Maze Runner, an ensemble comedy This Is Where I Leave You, a new Liam Neeson thriller A Walk Among Tombstones and the horror comedy Tusk. Ron Van Timmeran from Celebration Cinema sits down with WGVU for our weekly movie talk.   
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West Michigan U.S. Representatives vote no on arming Syrian rebels
  September 19, 2014  |  WGVU  Congress is clearing the way for the U.S. military to train and equip Syrian rebels in their war against Islamic State militants. The Senate voted 78-22 ratifying a new strategy. The House approved the bill on Wednesday.   
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Wednesday
MiBiz with Mark Sanchez
  September 17, 2014  |  WGVU  Muskegon County is on the "Way to Wellville" creating greater access to health care with a little help from Hartford, Conn.-based Health Initiative Coordinating Council.   
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Monday
2014 World Liesure College asks what makes Grand Rapids a livable city?
  September 15, 2014  |  WGVU  The 2014 World Leisure Congress is being held for the first time in the United States. It’s mission is enhancing the human condition. Steve Heacock, senior vice president of public affairs at Spectrum Health, was invited to Mobile, Alabama where he spoke about building a livable city.   
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Andy Bey sings standards and Sammy Figueroa visits pan Latin sounds
  September 15, 2014  |  WGVU  The prolific High Note and Savant record labels have released two new vocal CDs...pianist and singer Andy Bey has an album of standards and Latin percussionist Sammy Figueroa presents a variety of pan-Latin sounds.    
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Friday
Study: Religious affiliation a plus for stores
Grand Rapids MI  September 12, 2014  |  WGVU  A just released study authored by a Grand Valley State University Marketing Professor finds a thought provoking connection between shopping and religion.   
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Movie Talk
  September 12, 2014  |  WGVU  We preview four new movies opening this weekend including "Dolphin Tale 2", "The Drop", "No Good Deed" and "Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt".   
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Thursday
New clinic offers dental services for low-income residents
  September 11, 2014  |  WGVU  The new Kent County South Clinic repurposes the site of a former library into a dual medical and dental care center for thousands of local, low-income residents. Today on WGVU Midday West Michigan, WGVU talks with Pearline Bailey of the Michigan Community Dental Clinics about how the non-profit fits into the picture.    
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