The Populism That Wasn’t: How H.R. 840 Ignores The Benefits Of EB-5

The Populism That Wasn’t: How H.R. 840 Ignores The Benefits Of EB-5

By Mona Shah, Esq. and Rebecca S. Singh, Esq.

In February, Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-Illinois) introduced a flabbergasting piece of legislation that would, if passed, effectively bar all foreign nationals from purchasing property or real estate in the USA. Disguised under the friendly and protective title “Saving American Farms from Adversaries,” the bill reeks of not only xenophobia but a now-familiar kind of faux-populism. Of late, there has been a trend of certain politicians crafting their image so that it appeals to “common people—” whatever that means.

The bill makes some outlandish claims, such as the assertion that “The Chinese Communist Party is attempting to buy land in the United States, with an emphasis on farmland to gain strategic leverage over the United States.” What the “strategic leverage” in question is remains unclear.

While H.R. 840 does make some legitimate points about skyrocketing rent prices and the inability of families to afford housing, the evidence used to suggest that this is mostly due to foreign investment is flimsy at best. Additionally, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that China is making a focused, concerted effort to do what the legislation alleges.

Miller’s proposal comes at a troubling time—there is already a dangerous culture among Republican lawmakers that is almost candidly nationalist. While it is difficult to point to one inciting incident (especially because ethnocentrism has so long been prevalent in American culture and politics), one cannot ignore the impact certain Trumpian rhetoric has had on our nation’s attitude towards immigrants. The false assertion that immigrants are universally dangerous has now extended beyond an imaginary threat of violence—now the threat is to our farmlands.

“Miller’s proposal comes at a troubling time—there is already a dangerous culture among Republican lawmakers that is almost candidly nationalist.”

Today and in the recent legislation, however, the focus has seemingly shifted away from our Southern border. After a recent incident where a Chinese spy balloon was shot down over US airspace, some states have been inspired to propose legislation that specifically bars Chinese nationals from buying property in the US. Legislation similar to this, and to H.R. 840, often cites the preservation of American agriculture as the reasoning behind the proposed bans; last July, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) introduced the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act (“PASS”), which would, in addition to China, bar people from Russia, Iran, and North Korea from purchasing agricultural property.

The effect that legislation like this would have on EB-5 is obvious and problematic, as a lot of EB-5 projects are associated with real estate. The thinly veiled racism aside, any property purchased through an EB-5 investment is specifically geared towards the creation of jobs for US citizens—and job creation is something that many politicians tout as critical to their platforms. By proposing legislation like H.R. 840, people like Congresswoman Miller are working against their own self-interest and the interests of the American people by ignoring the positive effect EB-5 and other forms of investment- or property-based immigration can have on the economy and the American people, those living in agriculture-centric areas included.

Aaron Muller contributed to this article.

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