Grassley, Leahy to Senate Leadership: Reform Investor Visa Program Now or Let it Expire
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy are calling on Senate leadership to reform the flawed EB-5 foreign investor visa program or allow it to expire. The program, which allows foreign nationals to invest $1 million (or $500,000 in rural or high unemployment areas) in a commercial enterprise in exchange for green cards and U.S. citizenship, has been beset with fraud, abuse and national security vulnerabilities. The program is set to expire at the end of September.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran and Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski, the senators cite fraud, securities violations, money laundering, investor exploitation and failed projects as evidence of the need for reforms.
“If the program is going to continue in some form, at a minimum, we should provide the Department of Homeland Security with the tools necessary to expand background checks, site visits, audits, and the vetting of projects and investors alike. We must also better monitor compliance with securities laws, increase program transparency, raise minimum investment thresholds and restore program incentives so more money goes to the communities that need it, as Congress intended. The Department must also be authorized to sanction regional centers and other program participants for noncompliance,” the senators said in the letter.
Grassley and Leahy introduced legislation to reform the program last year, and have worked with bipartisan counterparts in the House of Representatives to restore integrity in the program, reduce fraud and abuse and return the program to its original intent of assisting rural and economically depressed parts of the country.
Full text of the letter follows:
September 8, 2016
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid:
We write to oppose a straight reauthorization of the EB-5 Regional Center program in any continuing resolution or appropriations bill that will cover fiscal year 2017. The program has become plagued with fraud and abuse, and if not reformed it should be allowed to expire on September 30th.
The rampant abuse of the EB-5 Regional Center program has been well documented in recent years. Internal Department of Homeland Security reviews, the Government Accountability Office, media outlets, and our Committee have uncovered serious problems with the program. Cases of fraud and securities violations, money laundering, exploitation of investors, abused program incentives, and failed projects have become all too common. Secretary Jeh Johnson has publicly acknowledged significant concerns involving the program and has called on Congress to provide much-needed reforms. It is past time that we do so.
If the program is going to continue in some form, at a minimum, we should provide the Department of Homeland Security with the tools necessary to expand background checks, site visits, audits, and the vetting of projects and investors alike. We must also better monitor compliance with securities laws, increase program transparency, raise minimum investment thresholds and restore program incentives so more money goes to the communities that need it, as Congress intended. The Department must also be authorized to sanction regional centers and other program participants for noncompliance.
As Chairman and Ranking Member of the committee that oversees the EB-5 Regional Center program, we have been working for years to identify and address concerns raised by the program's misuse. We implore you to consider reforms we have put forward and recommendations that have been made in conjunction with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee to improve this flawed program.
Thank you for your consideration.
Charles E. Grassley
Patrick Leahy Chairman
Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Mikulski
Senate Committee on Appropriations
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