The political environment resulting from the 2012 elections has made comprehensive immigration reform (“CIR”) a top priority for the 113th Congress. There is a lot of media coverage this week on the various proposals and legislative frameworks that are coming together. President Obama outlined his vision of immigration reform at a speech in Las Vegas. The bipartisan “Gang of Six” from the Senate unveiled a framework that it had agreed upon involving border security, increased oversight of people overstaying visas, and path to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. Lastly a bipartisan “high-skilled immigration” piece of legislation will be introduced this week by Senators Coons, Hatch, Klombochar, and Rubio – which would increase the availability of employment-based visas and eliminate the per-country cap.
All of the parties point to spring to have fully drafted legislative proposals with hearings and heated debate shortly thereafter, potentially followed by votes. However, the House has not indicated if/when it will produce any bills to act as counterpart to the competing Senate proposals. The last time CIR was attempted at this magnitude in 2007, the effort collapsed and nothing was passed. If that happens again, it is likely a series of smaller pieces of legislation will be brought up for consideration in Congress. In sum, expect a pointed debate over the coming months!
What does this all mean for the EB-5 Program? IIUSA’s Executive Director and Government Affairs team visited Congressional Offices in DC last week to find out. The IIUSA team met with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), including his Committee and Immigration Subcommittee staff. We also met with staff from the Offices of Representatives Andrews (D-NJ), Diaz-Balert (R-FL), and Lofgren (D-CA); and, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Senators Cornyn (R-TX), Hatch (R-UT), McCain (R-AZ), and Menendez (D-NJ) – respectively. All offices voiced their support for the EB-5 Program generally, and were glad to begin engagement with IIUSA, as the EB-5 Regional Center industry representative, on how EB-5 reform may be part of the comprehensive package.
Permanent authorization of the Program remains the central theme of IIUSA’s legislative platform, complemented by provisions that will maximize the Program’s capacity for economic impact and job creation in the U.S. The Senate, under the leadership of Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley of the Judiciary Committee, will introduce and deliberate on an EB-5 reform package separate from the other packages being drafted currently. It is useful to review S. 1986 from the 112th Congress, which has an EB-5 reform component attached as the last section that will act as the starting point for any new EB-5 legislation.
In addition to Congressional meetings, IIUSA met with SelectUSA, Department of Commerce, to discuss their ongoing involvement in the EB-5 Program as advocate for foreign direct investment inbound to the U.S. and through their ombudsman function. Speaking of “ombudsman,” IIUSA also met with the newly appointed CIS Ombudsman, Maria Odom, and her staff to discuss the risks and opportunities that are emerging from USCIS’ transition of EB-5 adjudications to the DC EB-5 Program Office and the upcoming 3/5 EB-5 engagement designed to engage with the stakeholder community on these issues.
IIUSA is deeply appreciative of the interest and engagement from the various federal government stakeholders to make sure the EB-5 Regional Center Program has a permanent, efficient and effective future in capital formation and U.S. job creation.