Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lee and Schumer: Strange Bedfellows Agree on Immigration Bill

Did you ever think you'd see the day when a tea party activist, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), and a New York liberal, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), could not only agree on something, but co-sponsor a narrowly crafted immigration reform bill? YIKES!!

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Well, stop the presses. . . it's happened today. They are introducing significant immigration reform legislation that congeals around an idea no one has ever brought up before. Let's bring foreign nationals and their investment dollars into the United States legally, and encourage their purchases of residential real estate to lift real estate prices by introducing some demand into the vast inventory of foreclosed, government-owned homes on the market currently.

It's a legitimate effort to boost housing prices that have not only languished, but continued to decline in some afflicted areas. There are strict provisions to bring capital into the U.S. without granting an automatic path to citizenship. Simultaneously, the bill will introduce some much-needed revisions to speeding up visa applications by installing technology (video-conferencing) to speed up processing.

It's a well-thought-out approach in a narrow segment of a complex immigration pie, but it's a good first step. Schumer says the bill's provisions have won endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

In a press release explaining the bill, Lee's office said:

"The Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act (VISIT-USA Act) would remove bureaucratic red tape that stifles travel and investment in the U.S. For instance, the bill would reduce barriers for Canadian and Chinese visitors whose consumer spending provides a lift to the U.S. economy. The bill would also expedite priority visa applicants, introduce videoconferencing as a means to screening foreign nationals, and make major changes to visa procedures for U.S. allies in the fight against al Qaeda."

Lee released another statement, clarifying the details of the proposed legislation. It's not intended to be a comprehensive approach. Rather, like eating the elephant one bite at a time, Lee and Schumer have found AN area of agreement (ONE ONLY) around which they can cobble legislation in a constructive way.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
Lee says buyers under the provisions of the proposed legislation will not be allowed to purchase a home by taking out a mortgage. They must pay up front and in cash in order to qualify. They will not create additional risk in our financial system, nor will they create a stream of interest payments to our major banks. The plan is not intended to go through the banks, a plus to those who view banks as the evil empire.

He also says this bill does not create a new market that did not exist previously. Foreign buyers accounted for roughly $82 billion of American real estate purchases in the most recent year tracked by the National Association of Realtors. "A full quarter of those buyers came from our neighbor to the north, Canada, with whom we share the world’s longest open border," explains Senator Lee.

The purpose of this bill is to support a free market method of increasing demand for housing at a time when so many working-class Americans who are underwater on their homes are desperate for prices to rise again. We all know the big-government programs to assist banks and borrowers have failed to work.

Lee concludes, "I am sponsoring this bill because I know that it makes economic sense while protecting American citizens."

Great idea. Kudos to the honorable Senators for coming up with a creative and innovative way to bring a foreign infusion of investment capital into our struggling economic system and to come up with a free-market solution to helping reduce the deficit.

After I saw the headline, overcame my shocked initial response and dived a little deeper into the detail, I like it!

But then, I like Mike (still do).

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