Who Needs Rich Flyover EB-5 Investors? Import Puerto Rican Workers to Build South Dakota

State Rep. Paula Hawks has consistently criticized U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem for her failure to support reforms of the EB-5 visa investment program in response to documented corruption. The Democratic aspirant to Congress repeated her position Friday that letting rich foreigners jump the immigration queue is the wrong way to bring in new Americans:

Hawks says when you can find the highest dollar bidder to pay to gain citizenship, and that’s what their interest is, that’s a problem for her.  Especially she says when there are others who working towards that goal in a different way [Jack Taylor, “Hawks Continues Denouncing EB-5,” KELO-AM, 2016.08.12].

SDSU ag profs are suggesting we recruit sweat, not cash:

Puerto Rico has an unemployment rate of 65 percent to 70 percent. South Dakota’s unemployment rate is 2.5 percent – the lowest in the nation.

Finding the best job candidates from Puerto Rico and offering services to help them adjust to the vastly different climate and culture of the prairie could serve as a model for recruitment beyond the South Dakota dairy industry, according to Alvaro Garcia, SDSU Extension agriculture and natural resources program director.

“This is not just about South Dakota,” Garcia told a room filled with dairy industry representatives. “If this works, it’s going to be national.”

The majority of employees in South Dakota’s dairies are from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua, professor Karla Hernandez said.

Unlike other members of the Latino labor force, however, Puerto Rican migrants can come to the U.S. and work without applying for visas [John Hult, “Wanted: Puerto Rican Dairy Workers,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.08.12].

First the mega-dairies needed to import money via EB-5 to get started; now they depend on importing workers to keep going. Pretty soon, we’ll have to depend on importing buyers to lap up our dairy supply.

Rep. Hawks and our SDSU profs are making two points that go together. Importing dollars from foreigners with little interest in our state or its economy led to corruption and questionable business practices. Importing workers brings new residents with a much more direct interest in the success of our businesses and our communities. Puerto Ricans who find well-paying work and inviting communities will provide South Dakota towns with the ongoing benefits of dollars in our tax jars, kids in our schools, and families participating in and strengthening our communities.

Related Statistics: The number of dairies in South Dakota has declined every year since 1985. In 1981, South Dakota had 4,650 dairies. In 2015, we had 256. During the EB-5/Joop Bollen era, from 2000 to 2013, South Dakota dairies dwindled 75%, from 1,095 to 273.

9 Responses to Who Needs Rich Flyover EB-5 Investors? Import Puerto Rican Workers to Build South Dakota

  1. Yes. America should snap up Puerto Rican workers now when they need work, and Americans should snap up Puerto Rican real estate now while property with an ocean view is dirt cheap. It makes sense.

  2. Darin Larson

    Cory, we can do both. We can hire Puerto Rican labor and we could use the eb-5 program to invest in blighted areas. Most states get along just fine with the eb-5 program. It’s only when you introduce incompetency and corruption with no oversight to the eb-5 program that you get the South Dakota experience.

    We import doctors, scientists, engineers and other highly talented individuals along with common laborers. Why shouldn’t we import capital investment? It’s my understanding the eb-5 investment has to be made in a County that is suffering from poverty. In other words, it is targeted to help with under-investment in impoverished areas.

    Republican incompetency and corruption in this state have ruined what could have been a good thing.

  3. Don Coyote

    Hmmm. A simple Google search shows Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate at 11.2% in June. I wonder where the Argus or SDSU is coming up with 65%-70%?


  4. Darin is right. The EB-5 program has a purpose. I suspect that the state is fighting to keep its regional center is because of all the fees that could be made by the state running that program in-house. That’s what should have happened before when the state actually paid the Joopster to take that $100 million + revenue stream off of the state’s hands. Imagine the problems SD could solve with a new revenue stream like that! Problem is, SD has already burned that bridge.

    Why has Marty Jackley not charged the Joopster with fraud for diverting all of that investor money through Epoch Star? Could it be that the money trail leads in part to people named Rounds? Why has the federal government not charged the Joopster with fraud, RICO, and any number of other crimes for diverting the investor money?

  5. Indeed, Don Coyote is right. Maybe they confused the unemployment rate with the poverty rate, which is upwards of 40% throughout Puerto Rico and somewhere above 60% in rural areas. Poor reporting in any event.

  6. Coyote, that’s a fair question. BLS agrees: 11.2% in June.

    Is it possible our esteemed SDSU professors have adopted Trumponomics?

    Puerto Rico’s labor force participation rate was 59.4% in 2016 Q2, not great, but not shockingly lower than the U.S. rate of 62.8% in July. However, this April 2016 Bloomberg article puts PR’s labor force participation rate at 40.6%. That same article also notes that emigration from PR has contributed to its economic decline: workers split, leaving an elderly, low-income population less able to support the tax base.

  7. “That same article also notes that emigration from PR has contributed to its economic decline: workers split, leaving an elderly, low-income population less able to support the tax base.”

    Puerto Rico is becoming a lot like South Dakota, isn’t it??

  8. When discussing Puerto Rico and immigrant workers, let’s not forget that Puerto Ricans are United States citizens. They’re “immigrant workers” the same way Minnesotans or Nebraskans who move to South Dakota are “immigrant workers.”

  9. Douglas Wiken

    Why not go to South Dakota reservations where the unemployment rate probably approaches 100% for employable males. That is a short trip and I think any of them can do as good work as any worker from Puerto Rico.