Visas for Sale: Willful Ignorance in the D.C. Swamp
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke is slow-jamming calls for an investigation into a shady Chinese investor-visa venture that involved President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said “potentially fraudulent statements and misrepresentations” were made by the Qiaowai Group in soliciting foreign investments for a luxury apartment building in Jersey City, N.J.Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and longstanding critic of the federal EB-5 program that grants U.S. residency to foreign investors, noted that Qiaowai boasted about its connections to Trump via son-in-law Jared Kushner. The firm promised clients that the White House would ensure their visas were approved.By law, all EB-5 investments must be “at risk” – meaning there can be no guarantees about returns on funds or approval of green cards. In a May 24 letter, Grassley requested answers from DHS and the Securities Exchange Commission over “questionable practices” by Qiaowai and its stateside EB-5 fund-collecting arm, the U.S. Immigration Fund.Ten weeks later, Duke, via U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director James McCament, offered a limp and unhelpful response.While assuring Grassley they take his concerns seriously, the DHS bureaucrats said there is no proper paperwork on which to act. “If we do, we will carefully review the submission,” they stated. Duke & Co. referred all other questions to the SEC, which was similarly non-responsive.This bureaucratic shell game and lack of transparency illustrate the loose regulation and political cronyism that have haunted EB-5 over its 25-year existence.On top of that, the Jersey City luxury high-rise project is yet another example of EB-5 promoters attempting to market U.S. green cards on the cheap. Like other EB-5 development ventures across the country, One Journal Square gerrymanders outlying low-income census tracts to earn “Targeted Employment Area” status. Such trickery – unchecked by USCIS — enables foreign investors to buy in with $500,000 instead of the $1 million that would be required otherwise.Kushner, subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in New York (not USCIS), says he is no longer involved in Journal Square and vowed to recuse himself from “particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program.”As for the “acting” bosses DHS and USCIS, where have they been? Reuters, The New York Times, CNN and other media outlets have reported unseemly details about the Qiaowai venture for months. Damning evidence includes online screen shots (now deleted) of illegal guarantees and promises made to investors. Duke and USCIS have nothing to say about that.To be fair, federal prosecutors did lock up two EB-5 fraudsters in unrelated cases recently. Meantime, however, it’s business as usual for scores of similar visa schemes.With the EB-5 program scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, the Qiaowai episode exposes, once again, the underwhelming performance by DHS and USCIS. After granting numerous, ill-advised extensions to the troubled program, Congress must, once and for all, shut down EB-5 and Trump needs to clean house at the agencies responsible for green card gaming.
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