Guess Which Presidential Candidate Is a Big Fan of EB-5 Visas?

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Guess Which Presidential Candidate Is a Big Fan of EB-5 Visas?

Remember the EB-5 immigration program? Congress created the EB-5 program in 1990 to stimulate investment by foreign investors. To qualify, a foreigner must invest at least $1 million, or $500,000 in either a rural area or an area with high unemployment. The investment must “create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years.” The government makes 10,000 EB-5 visas available each year, with 3,000 administered through Regional Centers, government-approved organizations that aim to help economic growth in a particular area.

A few years back, three out of every four visa recipients come from China; now the figure is closer to 85 percent.

The program came up as a potential scandal in Virginia’s gubernatorial race in 2013, because Virginia state authorities asked if one of Terry McAuliffe’s investment proposals was a disguised “visa-for-sale” scheme:

Even if the company has investors “lined up”, I maintain serious concerns about the establishment of an EB-5 center in general, and most specifically based on this company. Not only based on (lack of) management expertise, (lack of) market preparation, etc. but also still can’t get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications that we have no way to confirm or discount. . . .  This “feels” like a national political play instead of a Virginia economic development opportunity. I am not willing to stake Virginia’s reputation on this at this juncture. 

Guess who’s using the EB-5 immigration program to fund his own development projects?

Trump Bay Street is a 50-story luxury rental apartment building being built by Kushner Companies, whose chief executive officer, Jared Kushner, is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. It will have an outdoor pool, indoor golf simulator and sweeping views of Lower Manhattan; it adjoins an existing high rise condo, Trump Plaza Residence. The firm that was hired to seek investors, US Immigration Fund, is run by Florida developer Nicholas Mastroianni, who announced a partnership last year with a Trump golf course in Jupiter, Florida.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative branch of Congress, found last year in a general report about the EB-5 program that many applications contained a high risk of fraud, and discovered cases of counterfeit documentation. State Department officials told the GAO that there is “no reliable method to verify the source of the funds of petitioners.”

Giresi of US Immigration Fund says his firm uses “very stringent compliance programs” with a “great amount of due diligence” to look into the background of prospective investors, including hiring private investigators.

Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican who is chairman of the judiciary committee, last month cited a memo from Homeland Security saying that EB-5 visa holders do not clear the same hurdles as other immigrants, like proof of education and work qualifications. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said at the hearing that while he has supported EB-5 over the years, “If the program is to continue, it must be reformed.”

But don’t worry, immigration hawks. There’s no way Trump is conning you. He means everything he says to you – he’s just offering a line, spin, and empty promises to everyone else. 

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