House Judiciary Committee members slammed federal immigration officials Thursday for letting a growing number of foreigners exploit an investments-for-green-card program that is rife with waste and fraud.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Systems (USCIS) officials responsible for ferreting out fraud and making sure the EB-5 program creates permanent jobs for Americans “better get off their cans and fire somebody who should be doing these investigations,” said Pennsylvania Republican Rep. [crscore]Tom Marino[/crscore] while grilling USCIS Chief of the Immigration Investor Program Nicholas Colucci.
The USCIS EB-5 program requires foreigners invest at least $500,000 and create 10 full-time jobs in areas of high U.S. unemployment, or $1 million in other parts of the country. The number of visas issued through the program has skyrocketed from 749 in 2006 to 8,773 in 2015 — about 87 percent of investors are Chinese nationals.
As Congress considers renewing the program, USCIS officials aren’t investigating job sites to make sure Americans are employed long-term, but they are allowing most EB-5 participants to invest minimal amounts in well-to-do regions of the country.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last year that USCIS wasn’t tracking basic information about foreign investors, like names, birth dates or investment sites. GAO also found USCIS only pursues national security or fraud concerns that jeopardize an investment deal, and USCIS officials don’t know if the program works effectively.
Texas Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert said criminals may be entering the country permanently through the EB-5 program, and called for the program’s suspension. Gohmert cited a 2012 Fox News article detailing a Mexican national wanted for embezzlement who entered the U.S. via the EB-5 program.
“I appreciate your assurances a great deal that we would never do anything to compromise American safety,” Gohmert told Colucci at the Thursday hearing. “Unfortunately, you’ve already done it and I have no assurance that you’re going to protect us better in the future. And I think you ought to be suspending this program until such time you can assure that Americans are safe.”
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