Harry Reid loves the EB-5 program — and now we know why. The visa grants residency status for those who invest $500,000 or more in a US venture, assuming that the applicant can pass a background check for emigration. DHS supposedly prevents fraud and worse by conducting these background checks, but it turns out that Reid’s only interested in another kind of check entirely. ABC News’ Nightline did an exposé of the EB-5 program, showing that officials twist arms (or have theirs twisted) to bypass the background checks in order to get favored individuals into the US (via Daniel Halper at TWS):
Officials overseeing a federal program that offers an immigration short-cut to wealthy foreign investors have ignored pointed warnings from federal agents and approved visas for some immigrants suspected of having committed fraud, money laundering, and even one applicant with alleged ties to a child porn website, an ABC News investigation has found. The shortcomings prompted concerns within the Department of Homeland Security that the boutique immigration program would be exploited by terrorists, according to internal documents obtained by ABC News. …
Five different Homeland Security whistleblowers spoke with ABC News about a range of cases where visas were approved despite numerous red flags. They said objections were often ignored because the immigration program is so popular within the Obama Administration and with members of Congress from both parties. Known as the EB-5 visa program, foreigners who are willing to invest $500,000 in an American business can jump to the front of the line and obtain legal status to live in the U.S. for two years. If the investment is shown to create at least 10 jobs, the investors can receive a “Green Card” — permanent residency.
In December 2013, the Washington Times raised questions about the EB-5 program and Harry Reid’s connections to a $200 million project in Las Vegas. ABC News discovered that the Times was on the right trail, finding evidence of considerable political pressure from Reid to approve foreign investors in the project for EB-5 visas. That includes at least one person where evidence of fraud was found:
Michael Vannozzi, then a top aide to the senator, wrote to say that a failure by immigration officials to push through approvals could cause the project’s major investor, JP Morgan Chase, to back out. Emails show Reid personally appealed to the then-head of USCIS, Alijandro N. Mayorkas, to give the matter his attention. Mayorkas, who has since been promoted to deputy secretary, responded to the request by saying he would take “a fresh look” at the issue.
Shortly after the agency reversed course and sped up the processing of SLS Hotel investor applications, a career immigration official wrote in a Feb. 3, 2013 email that the decision had been “shoved down our throats” after Mayorkas and his senior advisor had “refused to listen to any operational concerns about expedites, including fraud and national security.”
ABC News obtained copies of background reports prepared by government fraud detection specialists about several of the SLS Hotel investors. The investigators raised questions about those applicants’ background –- most of them Chinese applicants who could not sufficiently document the source of their $500,000 investment. Applicants must present proof the money is not the product of illegal activity, or funneled to them by a government entity to help get a spy into the U.S.
In one case, a fraud investigator found bank documents “with eraser marks” and touched up with whiteout. In another, employer information the investor produced proved to be false. In a particularly glaring case, investigators found an applicant who had previously been refused entry into the U.S., and who submitted his application “with forged and fraudulent documents.”
“It is suspected that entry into the U.S. was to knowingly enter into a marriage fraud scheme,” the report states. The determination of this review: “Fraud found.”
Initially, DHS issued a letter informing that applicant of an intent to deny the visa. Three months later, that decision was mysteriously reversed. Another case involving the SLS project unveiled connections to child porn, including strange wire transfers and other “suspicious financial activities.” The applicant twice got denied entry to the US by Customs. Despite pleas from DHS to the FBI to look much closer at this “investor,” his application was approved in late January 2014.
Brian Ross tried asking DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the EB-5 visa program, but got stiffed:
He had more luck with Sen. Charles Grassley. He’s concerned that the program has been compromised by espionage, or worse:
The EB-5 visa program looks good … in theory. As Grassley says, we want to have people invest in America, and having a fast track for legitimate investors to emigrate and put their assets to work in the US makes some sense. However, it sure didn’t take long for politicians to start meddling and corrupting the process, and in retrospect it may be surprising if that didn’t start just as soon as the program did. In practice, at least for the moment, it looks more like a way to sell out the US for the pecuniary gain of select members of the governing class.