At a glitzy Beijing Ritz-Carlton event earlier this month, Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, urged potential investors to secure their EB-5 visa promptly before its loosey-goosey requirements and generous benefits get tightened. Known among immigration skeptics as the citizenship-for-sale visa, the EB-5 has a long, ugly and fraud-ridden history.
In short, for a token $500,000 investment in a commercial venture which can be withdrawn after two years, the overseas financier, his/her spouse and minor children will get permanent residency green cards that provide a path to citizenship. The investor may have no qualifications other than his bank account, never has to visit the U.S. or be involved in the project’s development in any way beyond signing the check. Moreover, the company isn’t required to, as President Trump would put it, “hire American.” The visa does, however, create hundreds of jobs for lobbyists, immigration lawyers and consultants paid to entice foreign capitalists to apply, and to persuade Congress to renew it every year.
As The Washington Post reported, the event brochure shamelessly touted the visa with this lure: “Invest $500,000, and immigrate to the United States.” A speaker reinforced the message: “Invest early and you will invest under the old rules.” The Kushner Company hoped that 300 Chinese would pony up $150 million to bolster a floundering New Jersey real estate project. In 2016, then-private citizen Donald Trump’s real estate firm had raised $50 million from Chinese EB-5 investors for another New Jersey project.
Although Kushner, a senior White House advisor, claims that he’s divested himself from the family businesses, and specifically from the New Jersey luxury condo complex ballyhooed during the Beijing presentation, critics properly pounced on the Trumps for possible ethics violations. Kushner is, of course, married to Ivanka Trump, also a White House advisor, and their union has many inside the Beltway wondering if they’re potentially influence peddlers, or, short of that, if they have significant sway on the president’s policy decisions. In some Capitol Hill circles, Kushner is referred to as the Deputy President.
Because of intense condemnation, Kushner Company officials have apologized for any impression they may have been given about promoting the deeply flawed visa and have, with good reason, low-keyed their Chinese money-raising efforts.
A Government Accountability Office report that dug into the EB-5 dirt stated that, since the program doesn’t vet investors, it couldn’t be certain that the funding didn’t originate from “the drug trade, human trafficking, or other criminal activities.” Weighing in again against the EB-5, the reliably pro-immigration, anti-Trump Washington Post editorialized earlier this month that ending the corruption-prone, embarrassing EB-5 “should be a no-brainer.” Across the U.S., more than 40 EB-5 projects have resulted in federal, state or civil lawsuits.
Last month, President Trump botched a chance to make good on his promise to create an immigration system that works for, not against, Americans. Instead of killing EB-5 in the omnibus appropriations bill, President Trump signed it and thus ensured that the visa will live on until at least September 30, the fiscal year end.
But as long as the EB-5 endures, the swamp remains full.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.