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In fact, the benefits of the EB-5 economic development plan have gone to former Immigration and Naturalization Service officials who formed lucrative limited partnerships to cash in on their access, and to shady foreign fraudsters.
Whistleblowers told me how immigrant investors paid token fees to these partnerships. The partnerships secured promissory notes for the remainder of the foreign investments, which were forgiven after investors received their permanent green cards. Former INS employees, working for these partnerships, aggressively lobbied their old colleagues to accept such bogus financial arrangements. As a result, according to an internal U.S. Justice Department investigative report, “aliens were paying $125K” instead of the required $500,000 to $1 million minimum, and “almost all of the monies went to the General Partners and the companies who set up the limited partners.”
In 2007, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the “program between 1995 and 1998 was frequently abused when would-be immigrants were allowed to pay a small amount in cash for a green card, signing a promissory note for the balance. The note didn’t come due for several years — long after the two-year conditional period built into the EB-5 visa had ended and permanent residency had been granted.”
An earlier Baltimore Sun investigation found “only a tiny fraction of the money ever made it to the companies seeking assistance.” Many of the distressed U.S. firms that the program intended to help have closed because they never received promised funding.
Instead of allowing the troubled program to sunset, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has “streamlined” the EB-5 immigrant investor green card process — guaranteeing processing within 15 calendar days for foreign business “projects that are fully developed and ready to be implemented.” The same expedited rush for government-directed investments gave us Solyndra. What’s worse in this case is the sordid peddling of the privileges of citizenship.
Twenty years ago, when the program’s failures were first exposed, Rep. John W. Bryant, a Texas Democrat, protested on the House floor: “This provision is an unbelievable departure from our tradition of cherishing our most precious birthright as Americans. Have we no self-respect as a nation? Are we so broke we have to sell our birthright?”
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