Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading an effort to boost the number of visas offered to wealthy immigrants who invest money in the United States as Congress tries to boost a faltering economy amid the escalating coronavirus outbreak.
The proposal, which could be included in one of the Senate’s coronavirus rescue bills, would significantly boost the number of visas offered annually from 10,000 to 75,000 while halving the investment required to earn legal residence from $900,000 to $450,000.
Half the recipients of the EB-5 visa program — investors and their families — come from China, according to a report by the Brookings Institution think tank. Many others come from South Korea and Taiwan. Some opposition has arisen because of concerns about increasing the number of foreigners coming to the U.S., especially from China, who is currently receiving global blame for its handling of the coronavirus. The EB-5 program was created in 1990 to boost rural areas and economically distressed urban ones. But in recent years developers have found ways to carve high-income areas into the locations.
“It's ridiculous to think that there are some in Congress who are looking to take advantage of a national health crisis by pushing for a massive increase in the number of green cards made available for foreign investors,” said Chris Chmielenski, deputy director at NumbersUSA. “While millions of American workers are concerned about their health and job status, Congress should be focusing on helping them and not selling off green cards.”
The expansion is being pushed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Trump ally who has supported easing restrictions in the past, according to one of the people. His office did not respond to a request for comment. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has long considered the program corrupt and tried to change the system but in 2018 called for it to shut down altogether.
“The American people understand that our citizenship is a blessing, and shouldn’t be given away cheaply,” said Sen. Grassley on the chamber floor that year. “Unfortunately, for too many years this body has witnessed the perversion and degradation of a program that sells, yes sells, our citizenship.”
The Trump administration is also considering reversing its recent decision to increase by 35,000 the number of non-agricultural seasonal workers the U.S. brings in each year, such as landscapers, crab-pickers and lifeguards, two people familiar with the situation say, as reported by Politico.
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Updated: Thu, Apr 2nd 2020 @ 1:20pm EDT