Republican state representatives Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) and Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) have bravely signed Rep. Kathy Tyler's (D-4/Big Stone City) petition calling for a special session to authorize a forensic audit of South Dakota's troubled EB-5 visa investment program.
Rumblings suggest that the Republican leadership is pressuring its members not to sign the petition and contending that the federal EB-5 investigation is all political machinations by U.S. Attorney and known Democrat Brendan Johnson. The latter is hogwash, given that great impetus for an investigation of the EB-5 program is coming from Republicans.
Recall that the federal investigation (read: the only serious investigation) of South Dakota's EB-5 program got rolling in part thanks to concerns raised at the national level by Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. Senator Grassley has been raising questions about the United States Customs and Immigration Service's supervision of EB-5 under Alejandro Mayorkas, who Grassley charges has fast-tracked Chinese EB-5 applicants as favors for well-placed Democrats Terry McAuliffe (now Virginia's Governor-elect) and Anthony Rodham (Hillary Clinton's brother). Mayorkas is President Barack Obama's nominee for Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. While the DHS inspector general is still investigating Mayorkas's conduct in USCIS, Senate Democrats have decided to push ahead with his nomination.
In 2008, the percentage of EB-5 investors coming from China was 25%. Under the Obama Administration, that percentage has jumped to around 80%. Immigration rules ban members of the Chinese Communist Party from receiving U.S. visas, but enforcing that ban requires diligent oversight. Senator Grassley is concerned that such oversight is taking a backseat to political favors.
Conservative Republican Senator Tom Coburn shares Senator Grassley's concerns. He offers this damning assessment of the EB-5 program:
I have serious concerns about national security and criminal threats associated with the EB-5 program.... The program is vulnerable to fraud, and we are not doing nearly enough to ensure that program participants are not a security threat. The administration needs to have a candid conversation with Congress and the American people regarding the program’s problems [Senator Tom Coburn, quoted in Jeffrey Anderson and Shaun Waterman, "Homeland Security's Fast-Tracked Checks of Foreign Investors May Put U.S. at Risk," Washington Times, 2013.10.27].
Since its inception in the 1990s, the EB-5 program has been a disappointment and an embarrassment. Key national Republicans are raising alarms that Democrats are using EB-5 to do political favors, at the expense of national security. If that's true, then a politically motivated Brendan Johnson would be the last person who would be giving the EB-5 program more scrutiny... and anti-Obama, anti-immigration, anti-Communist South Dakota Republicans ought to be the first.
The only people who don't want to look into South Dakota's EB-5 program are the people who are afraid they may find their friends implicated in green-card-buying schemes that have offsprung corruption, local economic damage, and possibly national security risks. But if those harms are happening, we must find out and stop them. Republicans should be as committed to that goal as Democrats.
Republicans, join your colleagues Rep. May and Rep. Nelson. Sign Rep. Tyler's petition. You may be doing the Chinese Communist Party and President Obama a favor if you don't.