For immediate release
August 25, 2015
Protests emerge as Congress prepares to renew controversial EB-5 program that speeds permanent legal residency for wealthy foreign investors but falls short on good jobs in U.S.
UNITE HERE International Union and immigrant advocacy organizations held events in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle Tuesday decrying a controversial immigration program—the EB-5 regional center program—that speeds permanent legal residency for wealthy foreign investors and their families.
The EB-5 regional center program accepts applications for up to 10,000 green cards each year. By contrast, an estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States currently have no path to legal status or citizenship. Millions of these immigrants are in limbo as federal courts hear challenges to President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration.
Congress is preparing to renew the EB-5 regional center program in September.
“The EB-5 regional center program is fundamentally unfair. Immigration laws should benefit all—not just the 1%, “said María Elena Durazo, vice president for civil rights, diversity, and immigration with UNITE HERE. “If Congress renews the ‘$500,000 green card’ EB-5 program without any comprehensive solutions for immigration reform, they’re sending a clear message: the American Dream is for sale and working immigrants can’t afford it.”
To qualify, a foreign investor must invest at least $500,000 in a business or project approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an office of the Department of Homeland Security. The wealthy foreign investor then gets a provisional green card and, after just two years, can qualify for legal permanent residency for himself and his family.
The business or project is supposed to create jobs and revive disadvantaged neighborhoods, but critics point to huge loopholes that leave the benefits largely to just two groups. The first is wealthy foreign investors who can afford to put up $500,000 to get green cards for themselves and their families. The second is wealthy U.S. developers, who can finance hotels, casinos, or other real estate projects cheaply because the main goal of most of the program’s foreign investors is a green card—not hefty returns on a $500,000 investment.
The Government Accountability Office criticized the EB-5 regional center program in a scathing report two weeks ago, saying that the federal immigration agency that runs it is not equipped to evaluate its purported economic benefits. The GAO report also questions whether the program has sufficient safeguards against fraud.
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UNITE HERE represents 270,000 women and men across North America who work in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries. Members of UNITE HERE are building a movement to empower immigrants and all workers across North America to achieve greater equality and opportunity. Learn more at www.unitehere.org.