The Real Deal New York

Sen. Grassley to Trump: EB-5 groups say they’ve “bought off the White House”

Iowa lawmaker has long sought to end the investor visa program
By Will Parker | June 08, 2018 05:45PM

Senator Chuck Grassley and President Donald Trump (Credit: Getty Images)

Investor visa industry groups are telling foreign investors they have “bought off the White House,” Sen. Chuck Grassley claimed in a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday.

Before Trump was elected, the Obama administration proposed regulations to the EB-5 visa program, which has driven billions of dollars into New York real estate development. Those proposed changes would have raised the barrier for entry for investors, encouraged more construction in low-income areas and increased transparency in a process that has become increasingly renowned for fraud. But those changes were never enacted by the Trump administration, much to the chagrin of lawmakers like Grassley, who have long sought to either reform or end the program.

“Certain EB-5 interest groups are telling investors they have ‘bought off the White House’ and that your Administration will never allow the EB-5 regulations to take effect,” Grassley wrote. “These comments are very disturbing, and undermine the American people’s faith in your ability to restore integrity to our immigration system.”

Grassley did not specify which groups are allegedly making this claim to investors, however. A representative for the senator declined to comment beyond the contents of the letter

Although the Trump administration froze new regulations on the matter, Congress has always had the power to reform the program. It has not used this power, however, and the rules for EB-5 exist in nearly the same form they did when the program was first enacted more than 25 years ago. In March, when the issue last came up for for reform in Congress, Grassley blamed “moneyed” New York City developers for preventing substantial changes from being passed into law.

The Obama-era proposals would have raised the minimum investment amount for a visa from $500,000 to $1.35 million, which one EB-5 regional center owner said would “kill the program.”

The program sunsets on Sept. 30, at which time Congress can either temporarily renew it again or pass a reform package.