Lawsuits Threaten to Sink Cash-for-Visas Program



In the latest sign of Capitol Hill dysfunction, Congress will likely grant yet another reprieve to its problem-plagued EB-5 foreign investor-visa program.

Set to expire Sept. 30, the EB-5 “pilot” is a toxic tin can that has been kicked down the road repeatedly over its troubled 28-year history. Attempts at reform have been few and far between.

In July, FAIR quoted the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as saying his agency is unable to effectively supervise or secure the program that grants green cards to foreign nationals who invest in job-creating ventures here.

The Government Accountability Office has found no evidence to verify EB-5’s job-creation claims.

Amid repeated calls from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and others for stricter accounting and deeper background checks to reduce the prevalence of fraud, the EB-5 lobby suggests rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

“The real split in Washington comes from proposals to raise the minimum investment thresholds well above $500,000 and restrict the ability of states to draw their own boundaries on what qualifies as an area of true employment need — a practice critics have referred to as ‘gerrymandering,’” one EB-5 insider said.

To use another nautical metaphor, such proposals would do little more than slap a new coat of paint on a rusting hulk.

Meantime, big icebergs lay ahead in U.S. courtrooms.

Litigation by disgruntled investors, many from China, are targeting several EB-5 regional centers that handle the foreign cash. The lawsuits typically claim securities fraud and other securities law violations.

The Department of Homeland Security shut down Vermont’s statewide regional center after a group of investors went to court to allege “the largest EB-5 fraud in U.S. history.” The Securities and Exchange Commission accused the operators of running a Ponzi scheme.

From New York to Virginia to South Dakota to Nevada, EB-5 projects have been embroiled in legal contests. An online search of “EB-5 lawsuits” yields 9,900 results; “EB-5 bankruptcy” nets 1,520,000 hits.

Now the feds are under the gun. A group of more than 450 Chinese EB-5 investors is currently suing the U.S. government to challenge visa policies that keep investors waiting up to 15 years to enter this country.

If Congress will not assert operational control over the program it created – or, better yet, scrap it altogether — the EB-5 experiment may simply be swamped by a rising tide of legal challenges to this cash-for-visas racket.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

5 Comments

  1. avatar

    The eb-5 legislation is intended to support the economy of poor areas of the United States and create more jobs for people in those areas. Wrong is the old & corrupt bureaucracy, not the eb5 investment immigration program itself!

  2. avatar

    EB-5 displays the rotten fruits of bipartisanship in immigration policy. Corruption and fraud are committed under the nose of USCIS, which lacks both the will and the authority to properly regulate this ill-conceived program. Chuck Grassley seems to be the only lawmaker who understands the national security risks baked into EB-5. (Grassley, of course, has his hands full with the Kavanaugh circus.) shamefully, his 99 esteemed colleagues are content to pocket more contribution cash from the EB-5 lobby (aka grifters and scam artists). And so it goes.

  3. avatar

    A country that puts residency and eventual citizenship up for sale is no better than a banana republic.

    • avatar

      There has to be a way to make honest, hardworking people get benefits. This program does have a fair line and creates what is needed most: jobs.
      People work many years and many long hours to get that amount of money. They spend another long period of time selecting among the best projects in our planet. If they do decide to become investors in the USA, they should be rewarded. They could put that investment in many other nations and stir the economies of many other areas in the world like Europe.

      • avatar

        Uh hu. Philosophical ********. Any programs that undermine the ability for American born nationals is foreign investors cup of tea. America is for American lately unless you didn’t realize. Go make your fortunes and dreams in another country and leave our to us.