Give us your rich . .
Uncle Sam has started hawking a hard-to-get home-grown commodity: green cards.
But at $1 million a pop, only the rich can afford to buy.
On Oct. 1, the Immigration and Naturalization Service began handing out 10,000 visas a year to foreigners with $1 million to invest in a business -- new or existing -- in the United States.
After two years, investors who have followed the letter of the law -- including employing 10 workers -- will get permanent residency, or green cards. The cards usually are reserved for foreigners with close family ties here, with special jobs or for refugees fearing persecution at home.
For the first time in immigration history, the U.S. government is taking a hard-nosed approach to luring the limo-taking, jet-setting crowd by trading green cards for greenbacks. The goal: to create more jobs and stimulate the U.S. economy.
"We've done a great job on boat people; a few yacht people wouldn't hurt," said Harold W. Ezell, a former INS commissioner for the Western Region and now an immigration consultant.
During the last six months, attorneys, immigration consultants and investment bankers from California to Florida have been holding seminars and passing out pamphlets around the world.
Family leave law
Companies may soon face federal rules in dealing with new mothers and other family leave issues. The Family and Medical Leave Act, which offers unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks and guarantees a job and seniority to returning mothers, was passed last week by the Senate and sent to the House. The bill also covers workers who need to care for a sick family member.
Congress passed a similar measure last year, but it was vetoed by President Bush.
"We're hearing from women all over the country that pregnancy is an employment risk," said Jeanne Clark, a member of the national board of the Washington-based National Organization for Women. "We're seeing a doubling up on the pressure on new mothers.
"Some employers really want to get rid of them; others feel it's an expedient thing to do because of poor economic conditions. Some women returning from maternity leave are finding they've been replaced by a younger person with less experience -- and who will be cheaper."
The 1978 federal Pregnancy Disability Act already protects U.S. women from losing their jobs because of pregnancy. But it does not guarantee the same job, seniority or salary on their return.