On November 8, Rep. Kristi Noem said she would not vote to extend the EB-5 visa investment program without changes:
Noem said, “I will review any final reauthorization legislation once it is completed and make a determination at that time. As it currently stands, the program without reforms would not get my support” [Seth Tupper, “Lukewarm Support for EB-5 Among Congressional Delegation,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.11.08].
On December 2, Rep. Kristi Noem still hadn’t read the proposal for EB-5 reform, much less shown the initiative to propose any reforms of her own, but repeated that she would not vote to extend the EB-5 visa investment program without changes:
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said she hasn’t reviewed the final re-authorization legislation for the EB-5 visa program, which is set to expire Dec. 11, but wouldn’t approve it as is.
“As it currently stands, the program without reforms would not get my support,” Noem said in a statement Wednesday [Dana Ferguson, “Noem Won’t Reauthorize EB-5 Without Changes,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.12.02].
On December 18, Rep. Kristi Noem voted to extend the EB-5 visa investment program without changes.
Section 575 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 extends EB-5 to the end of this fiscal year, September 30, 2016. The folks making money off EB-5 investors waged a $30-million lobbying war to convince Congress that real change was bad for business. EB-5 brokers and big-sheel developers are cheering:
In a huge win for real estate developers, Congress extended the popular, controversial and widely-debated EB-5 visa program for another year with no changes. Not a one.
…The vote is a coup for New York developers, who have raised more than $3.7 billion from EB-5 investors, a vast majority of them Chinese, according to an analysis this year by The Real Deal. “It will be very interesting to see the market reaction, especially in China,” Ronald Fieldstone, a lawyer at Arnstein & Lehr LLP, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “Probably a great sigh of relief” [link added; E.B. Solomont, “Developers 1, Congress 0 as EB-5 Is Extended Again — with No Changes,” The Real Deal, 2015.12.16].
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, who has consistently demanded reforms to address the national security risks posed by EB-5, expressed his displeasure with this prioritization of big-money special interests over national security on the Senate floor last Thursday, December 17:
This bill, which will be voted on by the House on Friday, includes a straight and clean extension of a program called the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program. This program has been plagued by fraud and abuse. But more importantly, it poses significant national security risks. Allegations suggesting the EB-5 program may be facilitating terrorist travel, economic espionage, money laundering and investment fraud are too serious to ignore. Yet, the omnibus bill fails to include much needed reforms.
…What makes this especially frustrating is that the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees agreed on a bill. We had consensus. I appreciate the support of Senator Leahy, the Ranking Member of the committee. I also commend Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, Congressmen Issa and Lofgren. We worked in a bi-partisan fashion. We agreed on every aspect, believing in our heart of hearts that we were doing the right thing. We found common ground on national security reforms. We made sure that rural and distressed urban areas benefited from the program. We instituted compliance measures, background checks, and transparency provisions.
Through months of hard work, we put together a great deal. But despite this broad, bi-partisan support, and the work of the committees of jurisdiction, not a single one of our recommendations will be implemented. Instead of reforming the program, some members of leadership have chosen the status quo.
This failure to heed calls for reform proves that some would rather side with special interest groups, land developers and those with deep pockets [Senator Charles Grassley, speech, U.S. Senate, 2015.12.17].
Senator Grassley voted against the Consolidated Appropriations Act. So did Senator John Thune. Senator Mike Rounds, whose own EB-5 program back in South Dakota became the poster child for EB-5 corruption, voted for the EB-5 extension after studious agnosticism on the issue.
And Rep. Kristi Noem, who made darn sure she voted for changes to another visa program on her declaration that “My number one priority is the safety and security of the American people,” joined Rounds in making lobbysists, lawyers, and real estate moguls her number one priority on EB-5.
Senators Flake, Cornyn, and Schumer have offered S. 2145 to reform EB-5 now. Rep. Noem, perhaps you can revisit your vote for EB-5 and realign your priorities with your public statements.