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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

Congress must reform EB-5 immigration program to ensure national security, lawmaker says

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler

America’s foreign adversaries, chief among them China, could utilize one of the federal government’s most noteworthy immigration programs against the United States, threatening its national security and undermining democracy, U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) told Homeland Preparedness News.

Congress should reform the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program to prevent fraud and abuse by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or any other anti-American foreign body, said the lawmaker, a U.S. Navy veteran and former attorney and judge who represents Pennsylvania’s 14th congressional district.

Congress created the EB-5 program in 1990 with the goal of stimulating capital investment and job creation from foreign investors. Run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the program provides a path to citizenship for immigrants who invest a certain amount of money and create jobs within the United States. In 1992, Congress created the Regional Center Program, which allocates EB-5 visas for foreign nationals who invest in commercial enterprises associated with EB-5 Regional Centers.

“Although the EB-5 program’s goal of stimulating capital investment and job creation in the United States is laudable, it has become clear in recent years that the CCP may be abusing the program to gain access to U.S. permanent residency for their members,” wrote Rep. Reschenthaler and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in a June 15 letter sent to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

For instance, between 2012 and 2018, 80 percent of the nearly 10,000 EB-5 visas available each year went to Chinese-born investors, while the vast majority of the EB-5 backlog currently consists of Chinese investors, according to their letter, which noted that Chinese investors have proven they are willing to wait as long as 10 years to receive an immigrant visa.

As Americans continue to suffer from the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Congress and the Trump administration must hold the CCP accountable for its lies and inaction,” wrote Reschenthaler and his colleague. “Consistent with this goal, we write to request that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the extent to which the CCP is abusing the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.” 

Rep. Reschenthaler recently elaborated on the letter with Homeland Preparedness News. The following Q&A has been edited for clarity.

Question 1:  What is the primary national security risk if CCP, or any foreign government, is found to abuse the EB-5 program in any way?

Reschenthaler: It is no secret that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively working to cripple our economy and undermine our national security. The EB-5 program could be utilized by the CCP and other bad actors to enter the U.S. and steal intellectual property and state secrets, interfere in our democratic institutions, and engage in other nefarious acts.

Question 2:  In your letter, you indicated a concern that USCIS is not able to deny or revoke a regional center’s visa determination based on national security. Does USCIS currently have enough authority, proper processes and adequate funding to evaluate whether a national security risk in the EB-5 program can be a means to deny a visa application?

Reschenthaler: While USCIS does have the means to evaluate a visa application for national security concerns, they are ultimately not permitted to act on those concerns by denying said application. This poses a significant threat to the safety and security of our nation, and is an issue Congress must address as we look to reform the EB-5 program.

Question 3:  USCIS recently petitioned for emergency funding to forestall the need to furlough 13,000 employees. Even though USCIS found the necessary stop-gap funding to avoid furloughs, does a lack of consistent funding pose a national security threat? 

Reschenthaler: Yes, anytime there is uncertainty in the system, things can fall through the cracks. We need to ensure USCIS has the resources to adapt to and address national security threats, whether that be through new fraud detection measures or additional officers.

Question 4:  Regardless of the GAO study findings, the EB-5 program has been reauthorized annually without additional “integrity measures” that can prevent fraud. Organizations such as IIUSA say such integrity measures are essential for the probity of the program.   U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced an EB-5 reform bill that includes integrity measures prohibiting foreign ownership of or foreign investment in regional centers. The bill also ensures long-term funding. How critical is it that Congress address the integrity issues plaguing the EB-5 program through formal legislation? How critical is it that Congress extend the EB-5 reauthorization deadline through the recent House Continuing Resolution funding the government through Dec. 11, 2020?

Reschenthaler: The EB-5 program helps facilitate economic development in the U.S. through capital investment and job creation, and I was glad to see the regional center reauthorization included in the recent temporary government funding measure. Moving forward, it is critical that Congress reform the program to address fraud and abuse and ensure the CCP or other foreign entities are not abusing the program for their own gain.