SDPB’s Lee Strubinger gets Senator John Thune to say the obvious: we need to reform the EB-5 visa investment program:
“It’s a program that’s had a lot of problems,” Thune says. “I think, if it’s going to continue, it needs to be fixed, it needs to be reformed. So, I’m hoping that at least we will be able to find the collective will to make those reforms and to make those changes. I know there are a lot of states who benefit from it. There are a lot of states who are committed to keeping it. But, I just know that it’s had enough problems, which, I think, if it’s going to be continued need to be fixed” [Lee Strubinger, “U.S. Senate Candidates Call for EB-5 Reforms… Culture Change and More Transparency,” SDPB Radio, 2016.08.01].
Senator Thune had a chance to convince his fellow Senator Mike Rounds and his ticketmate Rep. Kristi Noem of the need to fix EB-5 last December, but Rounds and Noem voted to continue EB-5 at Christmastime without any fixing.
Maybe Thune’s challenger, Democrat Jay Williams, would be a bit more persuasive:
“I don’t think the EB-5 program is actually what the problem was or is,” Williams says. “The problem is the administration of it. The South Dakota guys came in and, instead of doing the legitimate thing with EB-5—which is try to promote some investment, foreign investment in a place like South Dakota—they just saw it as a way to sell visas. And I’m not surprised that the investors must be really really unhappy with that” [Strubinger, 2016.08.01].
Note that either Thune nor Williams cite specific reforms, like the Grassley-Leahy-Conyers-Goodlatte proposal to end the gerrymandering of Targeted Employment Areas and focusing EB-5 investment on manufacturing and infrastructure projects, or Rep. Jared Polis’s EB-5 Integrity Act, or the six reforms I suggested last November when Thune last mumbled his vague passive-voice concerns about EB-5. But John Thune has been hanging around Washington, D.C., for twenty years, and in all that time, he hasn’t thought up any specific reforms for EB-5, even after seeing the massive EB-5 scandal that has cost his home state the trust of the USCIS. If we want to get something done on EB-5, we’re going to have to try a new Senator… preferably not one connected to the people who lined their pockets with EB-5 money.