Nothing illustrates the tenuous GOP grasp on the concept of job creation quite so well as Representative Joe Heck’s JOLT Act of 2015. H.R. 1401:
“Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to admit into the United States a qualifying Canadian citizen over 50 years old and spouse for a period not to exceed 240 days (in a single 365-day period) if the person maintains a Canadian residence and owns a U.S. residence or has rented a U.S. accommodation for the duration of such stay.”
By the Numbers
There are 35.16 million people living in Canada. 4.7 million of them are between the ages of 55 and 64. [StateCan] The 2011 Canadian census counted 4,945,060 individuals over the age of 65. [CanCensus] Of these numbers, approximately 500,000 can be classified as Snowbirds – those owning property in the United States. [FinancialPost] To apply some context, 500,000 is about 0.00157 of the U.S. population estimated at 317 million.
Some Canadians did take advantage of the housing bust in the U.S. to purchase retirement properties in California, Arizona, and in Mexico, but even in 2012 this was described in the Canadian press as a “small but growing group.” It would be small considering the travel related expenses, and the tax liabilities incurred. [GlobeMail] Not to mention the affluence required to maintain two residences.
Now comes the part wherein Nevada’s representative from the 3rd Congressional District tries to explain how wonderful this bill would be.
Representative Heck wrote:
“Boosting our economy and improving national security are two of the most critical challenges we face as a nation and the JOLT Act addresses them both,” Heck said in a statement.
“Expediting the visa interview process and expanding the Visa Waiver Program will bring more international travelers and tourists to destinations around our country and creates jobs,” he continued. “Making discretionary visa waiver security programs mandatory will improve our security at home and aid our intelligence community in the fight against global terrorism.” [The Hill]
Notice the attempt to tie the 500,000 Snowbirds to a booming tourism economy; “Expediting the visa interview process and expanding the Visa Waiver Program will bring more international travelers and tourists to destinations around our country and creates jobs.” We might venture to ask how increasing the temporary population of the U.S. by 0.00157 or 0.157% is exactly a big “job creator?”
Who Wants This?
The U.S. Travel Association wants it, as does the Canadian Snowbird Organization. And, from the Snowbirds we learn that Canadians purchased $2.2 billion in Florida real estate, making the National Association of Realtors very happy. [CSB] Representative Heck’s interest in this bill may be peaked by the $92,449 in contributions he received (2013-2014) from real estate interests, including $60,559 from individuals and another $31,890 from PACs. [OpenSec]
To sum up the situation: This bill isn’t about jobs. It really isn’t all that much about tourism. It is about serving the interests of a relatively few wealthy Canadians who want to retire to Sun States – anything has to be sunnier than Newfoundland – and the real estate interests who want to serve them.