Kor Mulder admits he is tired.
He has had countless conversations with immigration attorneys, congressional representatives and dairy farm leadership for more than a decade about his family’s challenges with provisions of the E-2 investor visa under which he operates his 175-cow dairy near Bellingham, Minn.
And now he is juggling calls and visits with the media.
In spring 2001, Mulder and his ex-wife moved from Holland to Minnesota with their two toddler sons to start dairy farming. The Mulders had been farming in Holland and wanted to grow the business there. However, they were limited by available acreage and a quota system, so they decided to move to the U.S. They had heard about dairy farm expansion efforts at the time along the South Dakota-Minnesota border and decided to relocate.
Back then, they were told the E-2 visa was the way for them to come to America. They learned, too, that the E-2 had a provision that allows dependents to remain legally until age 21. They were told that the provision wasn’t something to be too concerned about as they would have 15 years or so to resolve any issues.
Initially, they bought a farmstead with 11 acres northwest of Bellingham. Over the years, they remodeled the old barn and put in bigger stalls. They added acreage, bumping up to 34 acres.
To comply with immigration law since then, Mulder has been routinely returning to Holland to renew his E-2 visa, filling out paperwork and paying thousands of dollars to comply with immigration laws. As they grew older, his two sons, Garion and Kelsey, started helping on the farm. They milk in a double-six parlor and house their dairy cattle in a 100-stall freestall barn.
In 2010, the first news story came out in Minnesota about Mulder’s plight with his sons’ coming closer to “aging out” under the law. Stories and commentaries have appeared a couple more times — last year when his oldest son, Garion, turned 21 and had to return to Holland, and again in March by a local newspaper and a Twin Cities television station.
This time, Mulder’s immigration challenges hit a public nerve. People responded to the news shared on social media and raised more questions. Some people were empathetic toward the family, some were angry they have been allowed to stay. Overall, most people were unfamiliar with the E-2 visa’s requirements and limitations.
As attention and confusion spread, Mulder’s neighbors and friends rallied around him and his family.
They’ve been posting about Mulder’s situation on social media, explaining the challenges surrounding E-2 and working to get the law changed. In the meantime, the media keep calling — from Holland and from across the U.S.
“There is so much pressure and so much support,” Mulder says.
E-2: Good, not good
According to an organization that seeks E-2 visa reform, E2VisaReform.org, the E-2 investor visa was established in 1952 to stimulate outside investment in the U.S. economy. Currently, there are around 100,000 E-2 investment visa businesses in the U.S. in 40 states.
The E-2 investor visa is the only U.S. immigration visa that does not lead to permanent residency, otherwise known as obtaining a “green card.” A person with E-2 status can renew it but cannot obtain a green card. Children that come with E-2 parents are here legally yet have no protected status in the U.S.
Mulder has talked with at least four immigration attorneys over the years to figure out how his sons could legally remain in the U.S. None of the options are simple and for long term and all are expensive. Mulder could upgrade his visa status by expanding his dairy business, hiring a minimum of 10 employees and then start applying for a green card. Or, his sons could marry U.S. citizens or apply for student visas or specialty work visas.
“I don’t want my sons to be here illegally,” Mulder says. “I want them to be able to come back. This is their home.”
Mulder has reached out to politicians and dairy organizations over the years, too. Some were sympathetic. Some were discouraging, saying that changing the law was next to impossible. And some were just not interested in helping.
So earlier this year, Mulder made the decision not to renew his E-2. It expires June 4. And Kelsey turns 21 in July. They have been packing up the house, preparing to move at some point. He doesn’t know yet when the cattle will go or when he will sell the farm.
Pushing for change
Yet, new life has been breathed into Mulder’s decade-old quest and neighbors and friends are pushing for change.
One friend, with Mulder’s approval, has been active on social media and helped write an online petition on Change.org. The petition, which had more than 39,000 signatures as of April 11, draws attention to the Mulders’ issue and pushes to revise the E-2 investment visa to protect children from the “aging out” process and to provide a path to citizenship.
FAMILY FARM TEAM: Kor Mulder and his son, Kelsey, care for 350 animals on their west-central Minnesota dairy farm.
National and international exposure of Mulder's story is making a difference. The E2VisaReform organization was made aware of the Mulder petition and has shared that with lobbyists and lawmakers. All efforts seem to be making a gradual impact. Last week, Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., introduced H.R. 2124, the E-2 Visa Improvement Act, that seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit certain E-2 nonimmigrant investors to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident status. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
The E2VisaReform organization also has a petition called Improve the Dream, seeking to update legislation covering children brought to the U.S. as dependents.
How fast change happens in Congress will dictate whether the Mulders are still here come summer.
“Our best hope, our only option, is to get an extension,” Mulder says.
And with such strong support — even though it may be too late for his family — Mulder feels bolstered.
“I feel a little stronger now with the community and people from all over the U.S. supporting us,” he says. “The petition started for the three of us, but it’s not just about us. E-2 is about everyone. It’s just not about us, but it started because of us.”