One of the foundations of Donald Trump’s campaign for US president is attacks on China.
“They’ve taken our jobs, they’ve taken our money, they’ve taken everything,” he said of China in a speech late last month.
Another foundation is attacking the immigration system for letting in too many unskilled workers.
However, Trump Bay Street, a 50-story luxury rental apartment building in Jersey City, N.J. is basically selling expedited visas to wealthy people willing to invest in the project, according to a Bloomberg report. The building, which is branded with Trump’s name, is being built by his son-in-law.
The project is using a controversial US government visa program, known as EB-5, to raise tens of millions of dollars, by offering expedited visas to foreign investors.
Under EB-5, foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in a project promising to create jobs can receive a two-year visa with a good chance of obtaining permanent residency for them and their families. In 2014, the US issued 10,692 of these visas — 85% to people from China.
Supporters of the program say it attracts foreign capital and creates jobs at no US taxpayer cost. However officials in Homeland Security and Congress have raised concerns that the applicants are not getting screened enough, with some receiving a visa in less than a month.
Critics say the government is essentially selling visas to wealthy foreigners with no proven skills, paving the way for money laundering and compromising national security.
The Jersey City project has raised $50 million, reports Bloomberg, about a quarter of its funding, from loans obtained through EB-5, according to a slide presentation by US Immigration Fund. Mark Giresi, general counsel of US Immigration Fund, said he believed nearly all of the EB-5 investors in the Trump project were from China.
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative branch of Congress, found last year in a general report about the EB-5 program that many applications contained a high risk of fraud, and discovered cases of counterfeit documentation. State Department officials told the GAO that there is “no reliable method to verify the source of the funds of petitioners.”
Giresi of US Immigration Fund says his firm uses “very stringent compliance programs” with a “great amount of due diligence” to look into the background of prospective investors, including hiring private investigators.
“This was a highly successful license deal but he is not a partner in the financing of the development,” a Trump spokeswoman told Bloomberg.