WASHINGTON — A program that allowed wealthy foreign investors to obtain US residency, and has long been the subject of complaints that it amounts to a wholesale sale of US citizenship, could have a bleak end.
Congress’ authorization for a key part of the Immigrant Investor Program was set to expire on Wednesday following the failure of a Senate bill to address long-standing concerns about inadequate regulation with dim prospects for renewal. it was done.
The bipartisan bill would have created new rules on a part of the program that makes up the bulk of visa applications and allows money from foreign investors to pool in money to finance large projects around the US, often high-end real estate. .
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who co-wrote the bill with Vermont Sen. “A narrow subset of big money and corrupt interests have now shown they are willing to accept the program rather than accept integrity programs designed to curb their bad behavior.” Will kill you completely.” Patrick Leahy said on the Senate floor after Graham’s objection.
Graham’s spokesman, Kevin Bishop, said the South Carolina Republican needed more time, despite the impending deadline. “He seeks to reach a long-term agreement with all parties that allows the program to succeed while improving the integrity of the program.”
Despite the bill’s bipartisan sponsorship, the prospects of reviving it, or restoring authority without changes, remain uncertain. Lawmakers are wary of the overall program and Republicans in general have become increasingly anti-immigration.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of the Department of Homeland Security that administers the investment visa program, said in a statement that it was evaluating the effects of a lapse in authorization.
The agency also said it is considering administrative actions to “modernize and ensure integrity,” formally known as the EB-5 program.
“Our agency fully supports the EB-5 program and provides many benefits in providing jobs, boosting the economy, and providing assistance to distressed communities with foreign capital investment, especially in the United States,” it said. .
In 1990, when the economy was in recession, Congress created a program to encourage investment from abroad and stimulate job growth.
The program required an investment of $1 million, or only $500,000, and the creation of at least 10 jobs in areas of high poverty. In return, foreign investors got temporary residence with their immediate family and could apply for citizenship later.
Congress allowed funds from visa applicants to be deposited into “regional centers,” which would fund large investments and could include many different businesses. The idea was to promote development in poor or rural areas.
But the EB-5 program has enabled the creation of regional maps that only include pockets of poverty. The result is that the funds are often used to create large investment pools to finance luxury real estate projects in New York City, Miami, the San Francisco Bay Area and other parts of the country, which critics say the program intended. was not. .
The program provides 10,000 visas per year to wealthy foreigners, mainly from China and other parts of Asia. David North, senior fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Senate about the issue that relatively few people start a standalone EB-5 venture, so pooled funds make up the bulk.
In addition to the optics of essentially selling citizenship, the program has repeatedly been tainted by scandal and officials have sought to increase surveillance of foreign investors, their sources of income, and proposed investment projects. The Trump administration’s directive to increase necessary investments was recently overruled by a federal court.
“Every imaginable scam by every imaginable player is available in this program and I think it well deserves its death,” North said.