Monday, August 30, 2010

SIGN UP OPEN: Dubai EB-5 Seminar Wednesday, Nov 17, 2010 @ Shangri La

Better late than never: I've been telling a number of our readers in the Middle East that the sign up for the Dubai EB-5 Investor Seminar would be up soon....and it finally is.  We'll have a Farsi version up ASAP.

Sign up here for: Latour's Dubai Investor Visa Seminar Nov. 17

My international marketing partner, Namjoo Hashemi, will be joining me in presenting a comprehensive EB-5 seminar which will address a lot of the questions and concerns most of my, ahem, brethren, fail to mention when they are speaking of the wonders of EB-5 investor visas.  There are a LOT of really, REALLY bad EB-5 programs...and but a handful of good ones.  Attend and I'll tell you exactly why.

The event - free to pre-qualified investors - is going to be a provocative 2+ hour barrage of nitty gritty truth about which EB5s make sense, including the USCIS-pending Lake Point EcoVentures Regional Center, the first EB5RC lovingly crafted from the ground up by yours truly, and a variety of individual EB-5 properties and operations we've pre-vetted for EB-5 compliance purposes.  After the seminar, we'll open the floor up to a comprehensive Q and A where we can hopefully clarify a lot of the mumbo jumbo being marketed to prospective EB-5 investors.  I'll be sticking around for several days at the Shangri La for one-on-ones for those folks ready to move forward.

I know many of you will be in holiday that week, and that's why Namjoo picked the dates; it's a great excuse to write off that Dubai weekend you were thinking about planning anyway!  So far we have folks coming from Iran, Kazakhstan, and Kuwait.  We've got 70 seats and they are going fast, so register before I change my mind and decide to charge you guys for all this high quality intel...(-;

Cheers! Jose



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mexico's Drug Wars Making My Phone Ring

When I was a  young Vice Consul in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, it was hardly paradise.  Juarez was a big, booming desert town characterized by endless maquiladora factories, blistering heat, and a vast income gap between the very rich who lived behind guard entrances in plush mansions and the vast majority who didn't.  The neighborhood in which we lived, San Marcos, was home to several U.S. diplomats and another crowd; the nickname for the neighborhood was "San Narcos".

Still, you didn't know if the smiling guy across the street with the new bulletproof Benz was a drug dealer, a corrupt politician, or just one of the successful maquila owners.  No shoot outs, nothing external - save the lavish mansions and the fact that no one seemed to have a work schedule --to suggest that the drug trade was behind all the money.  Most of these folks -- including a number of my friends who were very legitimate businessmen with successful enterprises -- had a place up in the mountains of Ruidoso, New Mexico, two hours and light years away.  We weekended there often, leaving the dusty, garbage strewn, scorching summers of Juarez, stopping for brunch at Mesilla's Double Eagle Inn (possibly the best brunch on earth at the time), then winding up through apple and cherry farms, and generally ending up in Cloudcroft, a cool mountain haven in the summer and an alpine winter wonderland in that season.  I would estimate that a quarter of the folks you'd meet there were Mexican nationals with a mountain weekend getaway, all hailing from Juarez.

This was, of course, long before September 11th changed the world, and all these Mexicans had "micas", the border crossing card issued by then-INS.  No I-94s were issued and just as the those without visas would hop the fence to go shopping in downtown El Paso and hop the fence back to Juarez later that afternoon, laden with purchases (occasionally hailing a Border Patrol van for a free lift back to the Bridge of the Americas), so would the wealthy Mexicans flash their micas and head up the mountains for a weekend in New Mexico.  Sunday, it was back to Juarez. 

Things have changed.  In fact, based upon the information I am getting from my friends and contacts in Northern Mexico, there are an awful lot of folks who are NOT heading back to Juarez on Sunday.  Hundreds - maybe THOUSANDS -- of affluent Mexicans from Juarez are instead staying in the U.S., and many have bought homes in El Paso.  Put simply, there is a growing population of wealthy Mexicans living illegally in the U.S. because the situation on the other side of the border has deteriorated to the point where they fear for the lives of their loved ones.  Now, it's dad who heads back from Ruidoso to Juarez on Sunday night, or who commutes daily to Juarez from El Paso.  Now, I'm getting calls from folks who would have never considered immigrating to the U.S. and they are saying the same thing: "Jose, get us out of here."  And no, they will NOT let me visit them in Juarez...it's El Paso where we'll meet, and I can't even say where because they are afraid of what could happen, even on the U.S. side, if the wrong folks learned of our meetings.  Scary stuff.

As I described when I wrote of my very intense visit to Juarez last December, the violence behind the drug wars has permeated all levels of Mexican society:  this morning's Wall Street Journal  has a front page cover shot of the alleged murderers of a Mexican mayor...six police officers.  The nation was shocked with the brazen and brutal murder; now it ponders what the identity of the perpetrators means to the nation.

One of my best Mexican friends use to have a saying: "Poor Mexico: so far from God yet so close to the United States."  For the privileged Mexican families who are able to invest their way out of a spectacular, beautiful, and rich nation which has deteriorated into chaos, the latter part of that saying may not be such a  bad thing.



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Obama Socks it to U.S. H-1B and L Visa Employers

Just
when I think I’m starting to figure out this very bright man for whom I voted
as President, another dumb move from the Obama White House.  Last week, he signed into law a so-called “border
enforcement” bill which I had assumed was part and parcel of the ongoing
response to what Arizona started.  But as
so often happens with legislation (and sausage-making), it’s the stuff that isn’t
listed on the box that they sneak past you.




Turns
out that Public Law 111-230 doesn’t just address the border…it hammers American
companies which were already paying huge fees for the
foreign workers they have to hire because they can’t find U.S. workers for the
job.  Now, if more than half of the
employers’ workers are on L or H-1B visa status and the company has more than
50 employees at their U.S. operation, the so-called "filing fee and fraud
prevention and detection fee" jumps by $2250.  If a company with 50 or more employees has a U.S.
workforce which is more than 50% L visas, that company will pay an extra $2000
for that fee.




Tata’s online buzz has folks posting
that this law is specifically anti-India, and I’m afraid I agree.  The big IT consulting companies will be hit
hardest with the new rule, and the same thing will happen.  Just as Bill Gates said “the heck with it”
and moved a large plant from Washington to Canada when Washington clobbered his
ability to hire H-1Bs, and just as hundreds of REAL U.S. jobs vanished in the
blink of an eye, expect the big Indian firms to head out of the U.S., and more
unemployed Americans.




Sigh.




P.S.
Capitol Hill and White House: India is not on the U.S. border, but we sure are
reliant on their professionals for our technology.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Dynamics of U.S. Birthright

Immigration is the topic du jour yet again today and I wanted to share some thoughts.  This morning's Miami Herald blasts several Republicans who are proposing the elimination of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants U.S. citizenship to anyone born in the U.S.  Meanwhile, on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal, is an equally volatile headline: "Illegal Immigrants Estimated to Account for 1 in 12 U.S. Births".

Both articles make good points about each issue: the Herald points out that such a change would be radical departure from the American concept of inclusiveness.  The WSJ, in turn, tells us that undocumented immigrants make up slightly more than 4% of the U.S. adult
population. However, their babies represented twice that share, or 8%,
of all births on U.S. soil. Of these, 85% of births are to Hispanic parents illegally in the U.S.

As an immigration attorney, I am always wary of "reforms" which target specific groups within our population.  That being said, as a former U.S. consular officer who served in Ciudad Juarez when it was the busiest immigrant visa post in the world, I also have a difficult time ignoring realities I have experienced first hand.  Take me comments for what they are - one person's experienced-based observations - and no more:


  • The Herald editorial state "The immigrants who have babies here do not come to give birth. They come for jobs."  I just had a lively discussion on this very subject with Melissa, who agrees with that assertion.  Well, I disagree.  When I worked as both a visa officer and U.S. citizen services officer in Mexico, I personally interviewed thousands of Mexican nationals and their U.S. born children.  Virtually all of them volunteered, as I registered the child's U.S. birth or, more often, issued IR-5 immediate relative visas for the parents of a U.S. citizen, that the consular event in which they were participating was a planned event designed for the dual purposes of establishing a migration path for the family and to give the child the privileges associated with U.S. citizenship.  Except for a tiny percentage of affluent Mexicans working legally in the U.S., the vast majority of the births occurred in U.S. hospitals and the uninsured parents did not bear the costs associated with the delivery and aftercare.  So, no, they don't just "come for jobs", and if you think I'm wrong, go take a look at the Mexican wait times in the family preference categories and explain THAT to me.

  • The 14th Amendment and a U.S. birthright is and was another noble fine tuning of the best Constitution on earth and its purpose was laudable.  However, this notion that removing such birthright reverts the U.S. to the Dark Ages is historically wrong: many modern countries still have laws which convey the citizenship of the PARENTS to the child born in country; such has and is the case with persons in diplomatic status. Jus Sanguinis vs. Jus Soli is too complex for here but, basically, the notion that a child acquires the citizenship of her parents wherever she is born is very old and pragmatic.  (If you want to see more on this, go Wiki's Explanation of Jus Sanguinis and Jus Soli ).


So, you see, things aren't as simple as they seem.  When the child of foreign parents is born in the U.S., he or she acquires not one but TWO nationalities: U.S. (by virtue of the 14th amendment) and their parents' (by virtue of jus sanguinis, in every nationality I have ever encountered.  The implications of the Herald editorial is that the child would somehow be "stateless" if he or she is denied U.S. citizenship at birth.  In reality, he or she acquires the nationality of the parents...just not BOTH. And I can tell you from my deep love of the Constitution and the years I've poured over it, the 14th Amendment was not enacted for the purpose of insuring dual nationality.

One thing is for sure: the WSJ article and underlying study is going to create a huge public backlash, and I understand that.  In 1991, when my younger son Danny was born at Baptist Hospital right here in Miami, I nearly fainted when I was charged $20 for an extra box of Kleenex for Leah.  Unable to keep my big mouth shut, I complained loudly, and that in turn led to an extraordinary meeting with Baptist's financial folks. Back then, they explained to me that about half of the births at this beautiful maternity ward were the births of children of illegal aliens.  HOW? I asked.  The answer: the parents knew about Baptist's private maternity suites and top notch care and they would sit outside the emergency room until the baby's head was crowning.  When that happened, the ER HAD to admit the mother and the childbirth and aftercare was funded totally by Baptist, since neither federal nor state funds reimbursed them.

I'm not sure it's time to change the 14th Amendment but, unlike Melissa, I don't think the building of an impenetrable, Berlin-Wall-type southern border is even possible.  And from what I've seen in the last two and a half decades of this immigration business, I disagree with the Herald: people come to America for a LOT more reasons than to get a job.  Ellis Island wasn't a staffing agency, nor is our southern border.

And I'm STILL mad about the $20 box of Kleenex...(-;

Wall Street Journal Today on Illegal Immigrant Births in U.S.

Miami Herald Op Ed re 14th Amendment



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heads Up, EB-5 Regional Centers: "Accredited Investor" Redefined Under Dodd-Frank

First off, serious kudos to Akerman for their on-point memo (see bottom of blog for link to their site) on this subject; it was totally under the radar till I saw it there and incredibly important from an SEC compliance standpoint, as much for Regional Centers qualifying investors as for immigration attorneys representing clients.

As it has been defined until the new law, he term “accredited investor” included any natural person whose net
worth, either individually or jointly with his or her spouse, exceeded
one million dollars ($1,000,000), including the value of the investor’s
primary residence, or whose individual or joint income exceeded certain thresholds...AND the person didn't expect things to change dramatically anytime soon.  This has been somewhat glossed over by many in our business and I can't tell you how many prospective EB-5 investors have been sent my way...only to have my basic inquiry reveal that they did NOT meet the requirements.  Moreover, in countries where things are getting scary (i.e., Mexico, Venezuela, South Korea, etc.), there are a LOT of folks exploring the EB-5...many of them folks who, but for their homestead, do NOT meet the definition.

Here's what just changed and what matters:  on July 21, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank” or the “Act”).  Since the EB5 was created, it has operated under this so-called "Reg D" exemption.  Regulation D provides a safe harbor exemption from registration under the Securities Actfor the private placement of securities to accredited investors.  The big news: the new definition of the term “accredited investor” under Rule 501 of Regulation D and Rule 215 of the Securities Act of 1933 excludes the value of a primary residence for purposes of calculating a natural person’s net worth.

The bottom line: stop glossing over the threshold, guys.  The SEC is sniffing us out as a sector and EB-5 compliance will not be exclusively USCIS business forever.

Akerman's Article



Et tu, Bill? Florida's Politicking Attorney General McCollum Switch Hits on Immigration

Apparently there is an epidemic of constitutional amnesia/shameless pandering affecting state Attorneys General throughout the country.  As I told you last week, first it was Virginia State Attorney Cuccinelli opining that local law enforcement officers
can arrest those they suspect of committing criminal violations of
immigration laws -- crossing the border -- but not those they think have
violated civil immigration statutes -- overstaying visas
. Rather paradoxically, he added that that it is generally
"inadvisable" to arrest those suspected of committing civil violations.
"The ability to arrest lies clearly when there is a criminal offense and
it is decidedly unclear where there is a civil offense," he said.  In other words..."HUH??"  As if a police officer is trained to distinguish a civil immigration infraction from one which is criminal.  And never mind the part about immigration being constitutionally reserved as a federal power, something affirmed instantly the minute the Arizona law was challenged in federal court.

Now it's Florida State Attorney Bill McCollum's turn at the podium of politicians pandering for votes: first he opposed the Arizona legislation; next he liked it.  This past Monday he hinted that something like it would be revealed in several weeks...and unveiled it two days later.  Detecting a pattern here?  The truth is that the frustration with illegal immigration is an emotional hot button and like so many politicians who both understand the fundamental legal reasons why states are inherently unauthorized to enforce immigration and realize the arresting and deporting the core blue collar workforce of the economy is just plain stupid, Mr. McCollum has cashed in his karma and cranked out a really silly piece of legislation literally overnight.

The Miami Herald reported today that McCollum's proposal differs from the Arizona law in that it would
allow judges to consider immigration status when setting a bond. Illegal
immigrants would also face stiffer criminal sentences than legal
residents who committed the same crime. But here's one for the guys in the Home Depot parking lot: soliciting employment as an illegal
immigrant would also become a crime
.

Something tells me all those unemployed law and architecture grads won't be lining up to install your sod. (-:

And finally, in the grandiose tradition of double talk nonsense with no plausible consistent way of enforcement, leaving Florida police as confused as those in Virginia, my favorite McCollum quote:

``It's not how you look, it's not what you say."

No, Mr. McCollum, it's how THEY VOTE, and you should be even more ashamed than the Virgina State Attorney given your experience with the reality of Florida's unique immigration issues.




Sunday, August 8, 2010

ICE Not Deporting "Dreamers"

Although the Dream Act, which will offer legal status to some 700,000 foreign-born illegal aliens who entered the U.S. Before the age of 16, remains a dream, an unofficial policy change has apparently been keeping ICE from deporting those who would qualify. Check out the New York Times article: http://nyti.ms/d84Du8



Friday, August 6, 2010

Sonic Boom: EB-5 Regional Centers Embrace Franchises

In the beginning there was equity.  And it sucked.  It sucked because for the first decade or so, the vast majority of EB-5 Regional Centers were focused exclusively on circumventing the letter of the law as handed down in the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT90), wherein capital risk was a prerequisite.  While the smoke and mirrors deployed by many of these early players resulted in a remarkable number of initial I-526 approvals -- a testament to how unprepared the then-INS was for the shell game shenanigans --  the whole thing came crashing down at the I-829 level, as the government saw the bottom line and permanent residency was denied for many, many families.  It further sucked because the vast majority of regional centers were too preoccupied with collecting the EB-5 funds to worry about details such as job creation. (Mind you, there were several notable exceptions, like CMB, alive
and thriving a decade and a half later and still with a 100% record of
petition approvals.)

And so the money came in to these EB-5 Regional Centers based on equity investments, and this caught the greedy eyes of many developers and attorneys who rejoiced "This is GOOOOD!"  But it wasn't.  Things fell apart quickly, lawsuits were filed, bar complaints submitted, and soon these dishonest developers and attorneys were tearing their garments and gnashing their teeth as the USG hailed sulfurous denial upon denial upon them and their EB5 investors.

Out of those dark days appeared a wise man (whose name I shall omit since he likes to keep a low profile) said "I have a better way."  And he did.  After much thought, work, and legal analysis, CMB pioneered the concept of loan-based EB-5 project structuring, offering clear exit strategies and a level of transparency no one had ever seen.

Now THAT was good, and it remains my favorite structure in the business today.

A variety of incarnations of this very intelligent model have been adopted by many of the old and new Regional Centers (but mostly sans the transparency element.) Still other innovators in the past year have unveiled creative new structures which take the Regional Center back to Congress's original vision: as true umbrella organizations channeling a variety of unrelated, individual projects into job-deprived TEAs.  FOIC is perhaps the best example of that with its "mutual fund" model and independent investment management, and the folks behind it, like CMB, are rock solid, good people.


Fast forward to today and the talk is of franchising. (Actually, the TALK about EB-5 franchising has been going on for as long as the EB-5 has been around, but intelligently structured and compliant projects directed via EB-5 Regional Centers, as far as I know, have not manifested; if I'm wrong, please let me know!)  Queensfort Capital, right here in South Florida, has just unveiled a very compelling new EB-5 model using Sonic Restaurant franchises.  I've looked at it very closely and it has all the elements which make me comfortable:


  • well-funded, rock solid general partners and management team financially invested in the project

  • turnkey launch of new business with high labor demands assuring job creation numbers

  • conservative econometric projections

  • rights of expansion/ duplication of project

  • compelling annual interest rate

  • as good an "exit" strategy - and I put that in quotes because, IMHO, the ONLY true exit strategy is the maturation of a loan-based project -- as I've seen in any equity-based EB-5 project

  • a very cool and innovative set of contingencies providing a way out for the limited partners at the end of the game.


These guys are only looking for 8 investors and I believe the slots will go fast, so if it sounds like your cup of tea, get busy!  Remember: if you go through me and select an EB-5 Regional Center project which I trust, the attorneys fees get escrowed along with your investment funds and I only get my fees when the I-526 is approved, just like the Regional Center.  You pay filing fees and costs, I file the I-526 for you and your family, but I don't make a penny until your petition has been approved; if it gets denied for any reason other than an ineligibility you failed to disclose to me, you get 100% of the attorneys fee back.  If you want to know more about CMB, FOIC, or Queensfort's Sonic project, call me at my cell, 786-379-1928 or email me at jlatour@latourlaw.com

Have a great weekend and congratulate me: my eldest, Alexander, graduates from the University of Florida tomorrow and will soon be off to work in China! (-: J



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Senate Candidate Jeff Greene: Liar, Liar, Cuban Cigars on Fire

Showing his readiness for the Senate seat into which he is investing millions, Jeff Greene continued his history of totally lying about proven facts, this time in a televised debate with his opponent, Kendrick Meek.  When Meek asked him about Greene's yacht trip to Cuba - a violation of U.S. law --Greene insisted he had not personally taken
the yacht to Cuba.  After the debate, though,
Greene acknowledged he "may have gone in 2007". He said the Jewish
Federation had obtained a visa for him to visit Cuba and that he and
other members of the federation visited a synagogue.

Having LEGALLY been in Havana several times, there are two possible responses:

1- Mr. Greene was AGAIN lying, a habit with which he is increasingly identified OR

2- The poor man's memory has deteriorated to the point that he can spend a week partying in Havana and sincerely forget about it.

Either way, folks, I don't want this guy representing me.  And his Trumpish wealth has nothing to do with it.   It is the arrogance of the POWER that wealth can bring that creates this kind of perceived ability to get away with anything by simply pulling a Shaggy:  "It wasn't me."

Mr. Greene's lies about taking his yacht to Cuba have been refuted by (so far) two crew members who accompanied him to the island for a week; both have said that the purpose of the trip was to party in Cuba, that Greene's assertion about waiting in Havana (IF he was there, remember he MAY have been there) for a spare part was nonsense, and that he and his girlfriend returned to Marina Hemingway laden with purchases, including Cuban cigars.  (It's not just the cigars that were illegal but his expenditures probably exceeded the daily limit permitted by the State Department, that is IF Mr. Greene was ACTUALLY in Cuba when he took the purchases aboard his 150 yacht which MAY have gone to Cuba...).

Look: I'm not bashing him for wanting to go to Cuba and certainly not for his clear opposition to an embargo which is, IMHO, the single most catastrophic continuing U.S. policy blunder in Latin America of the past 50 years.  I'm bashing him for having the absolute arrogance to continue to lie every time he gets caught doing something wrong.  If you run for office, you need to fess up.  "Sure, I went to Cuba.  I think the embargo is a farce and that the only ones who suffer are Cuban families".  But please..."I MAY have been there"??? Don't insult us.

Mr. Greene's "if I say it didn't happen, it didn't happen" audacity is hardly new.  His business dealings are peppered with this kind of duplicity and just last month (or so) he denied that his yacht had slashed through a prized reef in Belize, despite numerous eyewitness accounts and a site evaluation by marine biologists.  But my favorite quote in today's Herald article was this:

``There's
still a Jewish community there, I don't know if you know that,'' he
said. ``There's still two synagogues. But there was no partying going
on. Who would you party with?"

Let's see...who would you party with in la Vieja Habana? (-:  I think the question is better phrased as "who would you NOT party with during a week in Havana".  Party on, Jeff, and I hope that if you keep spending and spending and manage to get that Senate seat you have your eye on, you'll take the lead on changing the rules about visiting Cuba so that those of us with smaller vessels can make trips like yours...legally.

Here is the Herald Article:

"What? I was in HAVANA?????"



And So Virginia Remains as Bass Ackwards as Ever...

[Yes, as a matter of fact, that WAS a typo in original title! (-;]

As much as I love the scenery, history, and food of the great state of Virginia, in which I resided off and on during my State Department years, I have always been somewhat shocked with their legal interpretations and rulings.  Today that rep is solidly concerned with their Attorney General's unsolicited and patently wrong legal opinion regarding Arizona's immigration law.  But first a story...

As a young consular officer on a temp assignment in DC, I had a landlord unlawfully refuse to reimburse a security deposit.  I took her to Virginia small claims court and won in minutes; restitution and costs were ordered.  Her attorney, knowing I was in Mexico, filed an appeal but deliberately sent it to an erroneous address;  almost a year later, I opened up my pay stub to find a garnishment of my wages based upon a fabricated counterclaim and ruling for the landlord based upon my no-show at the appellate hearing, of which I'd never been legally notified.  I flew to Virginia, outraged at the fraud committed by the attorney, which was readily documented via multiple receipts of certified letters advising her of my move to Mexico; it was a very rotten trick and I was confident that, once exposed, the Court would reverse the decision and possibly recommend bar sanctions against the newly graduated attorney.  But after going through all legal channels and documenting everything, they couldn't care less. Know what Virginia said?

"Tough".

That spirit of rotten legal thinking is alive and well, apparently.  Virginia State Attorney Cuccinelli  wrote that local law enforcement officers
can arrest those they suspect of committing criminal violations of
immigration laws -- crossing the border -- but not those they think have
violated civil immigration statutes -- overstaying visas
. Rather paradoxically, he added that that it is generally
"inadvisable" to arrest those suspected of committing civil violations.
"The ability to arrest lies clearly when there is a criminal offense and
it is decidedly unclear where there is a civil offense," he said.

Apparently Mr. Cuccinelli is confident that a police officer with essentially zero knowledge of U.S. immigration laws has the expertise to distinguish between a "civil" immigration violation and one which is "criminal".

Something's still rotten in Virginia's legal way of thinking, and an attorney as distinguished as Mr. Cuccinelli should be ashamed of himself for rendering an academic legal opinion which wholly ignores the realities of law enforcement and can only lead to more intrusive police inquiries which patently violate federal laws.

Virginia Attorney General's Convoluted Opinion