Thursday, November 12, 2015

Urban Equality NOW Files Federal Lawsuit Seeking an End to TEA Gerrymandering

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESSWIRE)--Urban Equality NOW (UEN) today filed a lawsuit against both Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, and USCIS Director, Leon Rodriguez. The suit is asking a federal court to establish policies and procedures to ensure compliance from the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS to the Immigration and Nationality Act, with respect to immigrant investors and to uphold the law regarding Targeted Employment Areas (TEA’s) in the EB-5 Regional Center program. The program is up for reauthorization on December 11, 2015.

“TEAs must, by law, have unemployment rates at least 150 percent of the nation's unemployment rate. Yet, oddly drawn TEAs are readily accepted by USCIS in spite of the obvious gerrymandering involved,” says Angelica Martinez, Director for Urban Equality NOW. “This defeats the purpose of the program and allows projects to build in big money areas with low unemployment, such New York City’s 'Billionaire’s Row,' instead of in depressed areas that need the economic boost and jobs, which is what the program was intended for.”

The suit, filed by Michael E. Coles, Lead Attorney for The Coles Firm P.C., addresses the gerrymandering, an issue that has been much discussed in the media, head-on. “We are calling for an immediate halt to the misuse of the program, specifically the gerrymandering of the TEAs,” states Coles. “Only those collections of U.S. Census Tracts, wherein aggregate unemployment meets or exceeds the 150% threshold, should be granted applications.”

A Regional Center project in Laredo, Texas, is also cited in the suit, which UEN and Coles shows demonstrates the complete and utter lack of nexus between project location and its intended beneficiaries. “It is very unlikely that someone living in Brownsville is going to commute by driving four hours to the Laredo Convention Center. Yet the TEA that was submitted and accepted is that far-fetched,” continues Coles. “This is a perfect example of why the current TEA rules must be adjusted with significant reform.”

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