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Sunday, March 19, 2017
Grassley, Leahy Warn EB-5 Industry against Secret Backroom ‘Deals’ to Thwart Reforms
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) put EB-5 industry organizations on notice that backroom deals that do not address the many flaws of the EB-5 program would be dead on arrival.
In a letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Roundtable, the senators pledge to work in good faith with industry stakeholders to address widespread fraud, national security concerns, and abused economic incentives plaguing the EB-5 Regional Center program, but warned that window-dressing reforms would not be accepted.
“We are disappointed to learn that your organizations may have recently agreed to a secretive, backroom ‘deal’ that undercuts the many good-faith efforts we have made during the past two years. From what we have been told, this so-called ‘deal’ does not advance Congress’s goals for this program and instead is merely aimed at pre-empting the new rules. It should go without saying that Congress is not bound by any deal that industry officials may have made. Our interests are preserving the integrity of our immigration system and the well-being of the American people. We will reject out of hand any window-dressing reforms that attempt to preserve the status quo,” the senators wrote in letters to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Roundtable.
Grassley and Leahy have worked for more than two years to examine and address weaknesses and national security vulnerabilities in the EB-5 program, which grants work visas to foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in domestic enterprises. The program was designed to spur U.S. job creation, especially in rural or economically distressed areas, but the program has been marked by fraud and abuse. Minimum investment levels have not kept pace with inflation over the quarter-century life of the pilot program and gerrymandering of regional centers has syphoned investments away from the rural or distressed areas that the program was intended to prioritize.