Politics

Rich Foreigners See The Door Closing On Contentious Buy-In Visa Program

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A controversial, fraud-filled “pay-to-play” visa program used by a top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official to do favors for Hillary Clinton’s brother may soon be a thing of the past.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley filed a bill last week to eliminate the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) EB-5 investor visa program, which grants foreign investors green cards in exchange for creating at least 10 jobs with an investment of $500,000 in economically depressed areas or $1 million in better-off zip codes.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General found in 2015 that then-Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas gave preferential treatment to Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham, who ran a USCIS visa center. The center was shut down by DHS in September 2016 for failing to meet program requirements. (RELATED: DHS Shuts Down Investor Visa Center Run By Hillary Clinton’s Brother)

“The EB-5 program has been rife with fraud and national security weaknesses,” said Grassley, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. “It has also strayed from Congress’ original intent to spur economic development in rural and depressed areas. For years, I’ve worked with bipartisan colleagues in good faith to reform it.

“Unfortunately, despite its many flaws, EB-5 proponents are apparently content with the status quo, and that’s unacceptable. I was hoping that it would not come to this point, but absent serious efforts to bring about reforms, we need to take the necessary steps to wind down the program and completely mitigate fraud, abuse and threats to our security.”

Republicans and Democrats have criticized the program, which doesn’t measure if investments made in it actually create the required number of new jobs. The critics also argue the program invites scams and encourages investment in wealthy area.

The EB-5 program issues about 10,000 visas annually, with the majority of investors in recent years hailing from China. President Donald Trump has promised to be tough on China and illegal immigration.

The DHS IG and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have issued scathing reports outlining poor oversight and fraud in the last two years.

“The EB-5 program is inherently flawed,” Feinstein said. “It says that U.S. citizenship is for sale. It is wrong to have a special pathway to citizenship for the wealthy while millions wait in line for visas.

“I agree that the time has come to end EB-5. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed charges in case after case of fraud connected to this troubled program. I look forward to working with Chairman Grassley to advance our legislation,” Feinsten said.

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