In a Roll Call op-ed published today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for the end of the EB-5 visa program that allows foreign nationals to buy green cards and eventually gain U.S. citizenship. The program is set to expire in December unless renewed by Congress.
The EB-5 visa gives foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. business and create at least 10 jobs a green card that puts them and their direct family on a special fast track for U.S. citizenship.
In the op-ed Sen. Feinstein wrote about the unfair advantage this gives to those who can afford it while other immigrants must wait years for their visas due to endless backlogs.
“Simply put, EB-5 sends a terrible message to the millions of immigrants patiently waiting their turn to enter the United States legally to be reunited with their families or for legitimate employment. It says that American citizenship is for sale, and that’s not what our country stands for.”
She described how the EB-5 program is susceptible to fraud and abuse, citing a recent Government Accountability Office report that found that the program is not providing the economic benefits it was supposed to create.
“A recent Government Accountability Office report confirms the difficulty of substantiating sources of investors’ funds, which may come from illegal activities in their home countries. The report says these difficulties pose a significant risk of fraud, particularly since the number of visas issued under the program increased from 3,000 to 9,000 between 2011 and 2014.”
Sen. Feinstein continued to provide examples of abuse and fraud associated with the EB-5 visa program.
“We have seen in recent years that the program is particularly vulnerable to securities fraud. According to legal complaints, applicants for some projects were swindled out of their investment, and jobs were never created…
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges in July against individuals for raising $68 million for oil and gas operations. The complaint states that some money was spent for personal use and lavish trips, commingled with other assets and distributed as profits in a manner similar to a Ponzi scheme.”
While she acknowledged that steps have been taken to reduce fraud the program should not continue.
“The bottom line is that the EB-5 regional center program sends a message that American citizenship is for sale, and the program is characterized by frequent fraud and abuse.
When the program comes up for renewal in December, Congress should allow the program to die.”
Read the full op-ed at Roll Call.
Updated: Wed, Nov 18th 2015 @ 12:45pm EST