Two top Republican committee chairmen are investigating an interagency panel that advised the federal government to shut down a controversial investor visa program that expires in October.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (Utah) requested documents from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) regarding a 2010 working group investigating the EB-5 investor visa program.
The EB-5 visa program lures foreign investment to U.S. construction with the promise of legal status and eventual citizenship. Despite securing billions in funding for projects, the program has faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers after several federal and media investigations revealed fraud and corruption.
In a letter made public Thursday, Grassley — a longtime critic of the program — and Chaffetz asked the USCIS for information, as the program’s renewal is likely to be included in a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government.
“It’s beyond me why some in Congress are so reluctant to reform a program that has been the subject of so much fraud and abuse,” Grassley said in a statement. “We need a full picture of the recommendations made by the interagency working group and we need to know why those recommendations never reached Capitol Hill.”
Chaffetz’s committee interviewed several former members of the working group. Those members suggested letting the EB-5 program expire, according to excerpts released by the lawmakers.
“It’s not that the investigators who review this program don’t see its value or its potential value, but we see the rampant exploitation,” read one excerpt.
The EB-5 program will likely be renewed until Dec. 9 in a CR, but its future afterward is unknown. Lawmakers have haggled for months over reforms to the program, leaving billions of dollars in investment up in the air.
Grassley and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are willing to let the program die without reform while they work with Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on several contentious issues.
Cornyn, Schumer and Flake are fierce defenders of the program and quashed last December a reform effort from Grassley, Leahy, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking Democrat Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).
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