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A Raw New Deal: Stripping Down and Restructuring the Immigrant Investor Program Under the Trump Administration

A Raw New Deal: Stripping Down and Restructuring the Immigrant Investor Program Under the Trump Administration

Allyson Moore

United States residency is for sale. As a Hail Mary attempt to jumpstart the U.S. economy, legislators set their sights on a combination of controversial immigration law and classic business tactics. Ultimately, Congress created an investment immigration program.[1] Specifically, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program developed from an interest in promoting the immigration of capital, not just people, in the hopes of expanding the U.S. job market.[2] This program allows investors to pay their way into the country if their investment links to a preapproved project that creates at least ten U.S. jobs.[3]

Historically, this was an underutilized program.[4] However, recently there has been an increase in the number of immigrants attracted to this program.[5] But not all preapproved projects have the necessary oversight to ensure that investments are project specific and complied with due to the lack of an oversight mechanism for the whole system.[6] This has allowed private entities, taking advantage of the absence of publically available information, to embezzle funds towards their own interests.[7] Therefore, to help alleviate the corruption and fraud from the Immigrant Investor Program, the public must become a stakeholder in the investments and have the ability to interject into the project approval process.

This Note will discuss the current framework for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program and will propose modifications focused both on congressional intent and public interest. Part I will overview the EB-5 program, identify historic goals, and outline some of the problems arising from the current statutory framework and the consequences associated with these flaws. Part II identifies specific case studies in Vermont, Illinois, and California, along with other nations’ programs. These case studies identify project flaws that have undermined the program and project successes that shed light on appropriate mechanisms. Part III details recommendations for policy changes and future litigation allowing all stakeholders a share in success. Finally, Part IV will discuss the next steps for the U.S. in terms of adopting an amended legislation and effectively implementing the new program details.

[1] Kunal M. Parker, Making Foreigners: Immigration and Citizenship Law in Am., 1600–2000 214 (2015).

[2] U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, PM-602-0083, EB-5 Adjudications Policy 1 (2013).

[3] Mike Donoghue, Stowe Businessman Sues over Scandal, Stowe Today (Aug. 31, 2017), http://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/news/business_news/stowe-businessman-sues-over-scandal/article_8077fc8c-8e9d-11e7-8b3d-87791cd966cd.html.

[4] Audrey Singer & Camille Galdes, Improving the EB-5 Investor Visa Program: International Financing for U.S. Regional Economic Development 3 (Feb. 2014) (“Over the years, demand for the EB-5 program has traditionally been low . . . .”).

[5] See Carla N. Argueta & Alison Siskin, Cong. Research Serv., R44475, EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa 5 (2016) (stating that the program attracted significantly more investors after 2007, following several restructuring tactics).

[6] Sanjay Bhatt, GAO Says Feds Lack Proper Oversight of EB-5 Investor Visa Program, Seattle Times (Aug. 12, 2015 11:40 AM), https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/gao-says-feds-lack-proper-oversight-of-eb-5-investor-visa-program/ (“[T]he EB-5 Investment Coalition, an industry group that favors extending the regional-center program, said ‘robust oversight and transparent processes are critical’ to the program’s ability to continue and create U.S. jobs.”).

[7] See infra Part III (discussing specific case studies where the United States Securities and Exchange Commission has filed complaints for fraud and corruption).

 

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