- The Washington Times - Friday, February 3, 2017

Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Dianne Feinstein announced Friday they have introduced legislation to kill a controversial investor visa program that critics have derided as a backdoor way for wealthy foreigners to essentially buy a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

“I was hoping that it would not come to this point, but absent serious efforts to bring about reforms, we need to take the necessary steps to wind down the program and completely mitigate fraud, abuse and threats to our security,” said Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mrs. Feinstein called the EB-5 program “inherently flawed.”

“It says that U.S. citizenship is for sale. It is wrong to have a special pathway to citizenship for the wealthy while millions wait in line for visas. I agree that the time has come to end EB-5,” said Mrs. Feinstein, California Democrat and ranking member on the committee.

The program, which was first developed during the George H.W. Bush administration, rewards foreign investors with a path to legal status in the U.S. if they put up money for a job-creating development project.

The investment threshold is $1 million, or $500,000 if the project is in an economically struggling area.

Advocates say that at least $11 billion in community investment and tens of thousands of jobs would disappear if the program simply ended.

But it’s been plagued by charges of fraud and political corruption, including a scandal several years ago that ensnared Alejandro Mayorkas, the former head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the Obama administration.

An inspector general found that Mr. Mayorkas engaged in “unprecedented” intervention to get EB-5 approvals in cases involving politically connected Democrats, including former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The Department of Homeland Security recently proposed new rules for the program, which would entail raising the standard investment level to $1.8 million and the minimum level to $1.35 million, for example.

President Trump has some tangential connections to the program. The family of Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and top adviser, is in charge of a Jersey City complex that uses Mr. Trump’s name and reportedly leveraged $50 million in EB-5 money as part of its financing.

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