EB-5 promoter Ali Jahangiri is doing damage control in South Dakota. Mr. Jahangiri defended the EB-5 visa investment program in an interview with SDPB's Steve Zwemke Tuesday. The Aberdeen American News gave him inches in Friday's paper to rebut U.S. Senator Charles Grassley's and S.D. Rep. Stace Nelson's accusations that EB-5 imperils national security to grant favors to rich immigrants.
Jahangiri asserts that EB-5 investors get no preferential treatment in immigration, but he cannot get around the fact that people who can plunk $500,000 into a South Dakota dairy, turkey plant, or casino get to bring their families to America sooner than the foreigners who might want to do the actual work at those enterprises. As one of the experts on EB5Investors.com says, "The EB-5 program is one of the fastest ways to receive your green card." Less wealthy immigrants may wait for years to get their legal status.
Jahangiri tells SDPB that we can't measure the societal gains of EB-5 immigrant investment in pure dollars. Ah, yes, the intangibles! That's usually what we turn to when the numbers don't add up. Canada is finding the numbers for rich immigrant favoritism don't add up: as I reported two weeks ago, Canada is ending its version of EB-5 (which inspired ours) because, on straight economic analysis, it doesn't pay off.
It is worth noting that Jahangiri makes money promoting EB-5. From California, he runs EB5Investors.com and EB-5 Investors Magazine, which churn out a relentless stream of pro-EB-5 articles. He and his media team won the 2013 EB-5 Media Service Award from Brian Su's EB-5 promotion blog. Jahangiri organizes and promotes EB-5 conferences to connect entrepreneurs, investors, and lawmakers.
Reaching for connections, I note that Jahangiri is a founder of Gen Next Inc., and exclusive pro-business club that charges invited members $10,000 to join. Among the luminaries to whom Gen Next has treated its high rollers to private parties is South Dakota's Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Whether Jahangiri and friends discussed EB-5 with Noem over Laguna Beach cocktails in 2011 is unknown.
Related Reading: Jahangiri's current current magazine edition, with articles posted online on Thursday, includes an article advising regional centers on securities compliance. EB-5 attorney Elizabeth Krukova makes clear something we discussed here in December, that the investment opportunities peddled by South Dakota's regional center and other EB-5 organizations are indeed securities and need to comply with SEC rules.