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Congress must reform the EB-5 cash-for-visas program

Congress must reform the EB-5 cash-for-visas program

EB-5 Visa, EB5 Visa, EB-5 Investment

One of the first new laws President Trump signed, an appropriations bill, contained a provision renewing the controversial EB-5 immigrant investor visa program.

Hours later, Nicole Kushner Meyer of the Kushner Cos. — the family-owned real estate development company that was, until very recently, run by Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner — was urging wealthy investors in Beijing to consider putting $500,000 each into two luxury apartment towers the company is erecting in Jersey City.

The timing of these two incidents reeks of nepotism and crony capitalism. The entire episode should be scrutinized by the Office of Government Ethics.

It’s also squarely placed a spotlight on why the EB-5 program isn’t working. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is studying ways to reform EB-5, which shouldn’t have been extended in its current form.

The EB-5 immigration program was established by Congress in 1990 to encourage foreign investment in the United States. It’s supposed to give wealthy foreigners a quick road to U.S. citizenship in exchange for subsidizing development in rural or blighted areas and creating American jobs.

In reality, the program has been riddled with fraud and abuse. Investors, overwhelmingly Chinese nationals, have to wait years for their visas, and their investment partnerships rarely power distressed developments or create the promised number of American jobs.

But the EB-5 program has proved to be an effective way to attract Chinese investment into luxury hotel and condominium projects. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., correctly noted that the program is a “stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House.”

That means Congress needs to speed up that study group — and pass a reform bill.



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