KSFY reports that ABC News has launched an investigation into the EB-5 “cash for visas” program that was the brainchild of Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy. The program also came up several times during the 2014 election as U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds dealt with uncomfortable questions about his involvement in the program which, in South Dakota, spawned a bankrupt beef plant, a former state official dead under odd circumstances, and $120 million of the taxpayer’s money missing.
In addition to the national security issues with this program that South Dakota Rep. Stace Nelson tried to point out to the legislature last year, whistleblowers indicate the program may be responsible for visas going into the hands of foreign “forgers, fraudsters and criminals”:
But in a series of interviews, Homeland Security whistleblowers who spoke with ABC News on the condition they not be identified said their greatest concern was that political pressure to expedite the review process has led officials to grant visas to applicants who had significant red flags in their backgrounds.
When the SLS Hotel chain sought to fund construction of a hotel on the Las Vegas strip using foreign investors, Reid and his aides urged immigration officials to speed up their review of the visa applicants, internal emails show. Each visa applicant approval meant another $500,000 could flow into the construction budget, and the developers were anticipating as much as $200 million from foreign investors.
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Michael Vannozzi, then a top aide to the senator, wrote to say that a failure by immigration officials to push through approvals could cause the project’s major investor, JP Morgan Chase, to back out. Emails show Reid personally appealed to the then-head of USCIS, Alijandro N. Mayorkas, to give the matter his attention. Mayorkas, who has since been promoted to deputy secretary, responded to the request by saying he would take “a fresh look” at the issue.
Shortly after the agency reversed course and sped up the processing of SLS Hotel investor applications, a career immigration official wrote in a Feb. 3, 2013 email that the decision had been “shoved down our throats” after Mayorkas and his senior advisor had “refused to listen to any operational concerns about expedites, including fraud and national security.”
ABC News obtained copies of background reports prepared by government fraud detection specialists about several of the SLS Hotel investors. The investigators raised questions about those applicants’ background –- most of them Chinese applicants who could not sufficiently document the source of their $500,000 investment. Applicants must present proof the money is not the product of illegal activity, or funneled to them by a government entity to help get a spy into the U.S.
In one case, a fraud investigator found bank documents “with eraser marks” and touched up with whiteout. In another, employer information the investor produced proved to be false. In a particularly glaring case, investigators found an applicant who had previously been refused entry into the U.S., and who submitted his application “with forged and fraudulent documents.”
“It is suspected that entry into the U.S. was to knowingly enter into a marriage fraud scheme,” the report states. The determination of this review: “Fraud found.”
Note the Chinese investors mentioned in the article. Our corrupt “Republican” establishment here in South Dakota is particularly fond of communist Chinese investors. And while they did their best to sweep the entire thing under the rug to get their favored RINO elected, the stench just doesn’t seem to be going away.
As you might imagine, any time government and big moneyed interests start rolling naked in the hay, there is huge potential for crime, malfeasance and a general taking to the cleaners of the taxpayers.
The federal official who oversaw the growth of the program, Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, told lawmakers last year that any weaknesses in the program have been tightened. But whistleblowers told ABC News that little has changed since concerns were raised about visa applicants being approved despite being suspected of fraud, money laundering, and in one instance, possible involvement in selling child pornography.
But back to those national security concerns:
Documents obtained by ABC News show that U.S officials had undertaken an investigation of a southern California shipping company, American Logistics International, and its Iranian-born owner, Alireza Mahdavi, for possible illegal shipments to Iran. Even as the investigation was underway, the company was re-certified by U.S. immigration officials as an EB-5 regional center, which entitles it to recruit foreign investors with the promise of a visa, and potentially, a Green Card. The company has raised millions of dollars from foreign investors, many from Iran.
Records show that investigators’ suspicions were aroused in part by the conviction of a one-time business associate of Mahdavi on charges he illegally shipped banned items to Iran. According to the government documents, the man was believed to be “associated with a network involved in a series of international assassination and terrorism operations.”
Shouldn’t anyone coming from Iran raise a red flag to the leaders entrusted with safeguarding this nation? After all, Iran is the country that once took our embassy personnel hostage, is trying to become a nuclear power, fought our troops in Iraq through proxies, and has expressed its zeal for wiping our ally Israel (and anyone else who gets in its way) off the map.
Then there’s the general concept of allowing wealthy foreigners to buy their way to the head of the line to get into our country. Shouldn’t everyone who wants to come to America get the same shot at it, and seek entry on a level playing field?
Rounds spent the campaign defending this flawed liberal program; would that he was half as concerned with defending America and the interests of the American people.
I like economic development just as much as the next American. But not at the price of national security. And certainly not when sweetheart arrangements that foster corruption, take the taxpayers for a ride, and leave people dead under very strange circumstances.
We used to be able to count on Republicans to know and do what was right. We used to rest easy in the knowledge that most Republicans understood that the government which governs best is the one that governs least, and that the best way for government to ensure the prosperity of the people was to keep government out of the free market. We could also count on Republicans to ensure our borders were sovereign and this nation was protected from foreign threats.
Now it seems almost as many “Republicans” as Democrats are eager to enrich themselves and their cronies at the expense of the people they ostensibly were elected to represent…and if national security takes it on the chin, too, so be it.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.