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Luther Strange Stands to Profit from Troubled EB-5 Visa Program

Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), despite his presentation as an immigration hawk, has a substantial stake in a firm that facilitates visas for rich, mostly Chinese, investors and their families.

According to February disclosure filings reported in Alabama Today, Strange held a one-sixth ownership of an Alabama-based EB-5 Visa fixer called Sunbelt EB-5 Regional Center.

According to Sunbelt’s FAQ page:

An EB5 investor Visa is suitable for people from all walks of life: professionals, business people, persons wanting to facilitate their children’s education and to attend US Universities, persons just seeking a new or better life in the United States, and persons wanting to retire in the United States. Quite simply, the EB-5 visa gives you the opportunity and flexibility to do what you want in the USA. If you don’t want to actively manage your business, you should consider a Regional Center EB-5 Investment.

The EB-5 visa program is a controversial piece of American immigration law instituted in 1990 that gives legal residency to foreign investors who put $500,000 into an American project slated to create jobs. The program has been oversubscribed and rife with fraud for years and become increasingly dominated by mainland Chinese investors who the State Department reports make up over 80 percent of EB-5 visa recipients. Critics, like Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), say EB-5s effectively put U.S. residency up “for sale” to rich foreigners.

Sunbelt, the firm which Strange partially owns, makes its money by soliciting foreigners to invest in projects in the American southeast and helping to then secure visas for those investors and their families.

Sunbelt has, according to their website, “raised $25,000,000 of EB-5 pooled funds” and provided visas for 48 investors and their families, with more pending.

In just the last two years, Vermont’s EB-5-funded Jay Peak ski resort turned out to be  a scam to embezzle money from foreigners hoping for visas; a massive real estate investment fraud was unearthed in New York enticing foreigners, mostly Chinese, to invest in the hopes of securing EB-5 visas; and raids were conducted in California in relation to another alleged $50 million investment fraud funded by EB-5-seeking Chinese, including several of the most-wanted criminal fugitives in China.

In May, a funding resolution passed by the Republican controlled House extended the EB-5 program yet again. Meanwhile, the program was propelled back into the headlines by the Kushner Companies’ touting of White House advisor Jared Kushner’s ties to the president to solicit Chinese investors. A bipartisan group of senators have proposed tight monitoring of the program or axing the visa entirely.

In support of EB-5 reform or elimination, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said:

The EB-5 program has been rife with fraud and national security weaknesses. It has also strayed from Congress’ original intent to spur economic development in rural and depressed areas. For years, I’ve worked with bipartisan colleagues in good faith to reform it. Unfortunately, despite its many flaws, EB-5 proponents are apparently content with the status quo, and that’s unacceptable.  I was hoping that it would not come to this point, but absent serious efforts to bring about reforms, we need to take the necessary steps to wind down the program and completely mitigate fraud, abuse and threats to our security.

Strange is locked in a run-off with former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for the Republican nomination for a full term in the U.S. Senate. Both men have painted themselves as immigration hawks in deeply conservative Alabama where President Donald Trump, who controversially endorsed Strange in an apparent deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, won by nearly 28-points.

Despite this presentation, in 2011, as Alabama Attorney General, Strange sought to rein in Alabama’s tough new restrictions on illegal immigrants. Strange and his surrogates have had their work cut out for them in the current heavily nationalist climate in the Republican Party and have stopped at nothing to shed his Chamber of Commerce-endorsed image as soft on immigration. For example, Strange’s allies at McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund PAC have tried to falsely paint Moore as opposing the wall on the southern border.

Despite this re-branding, Strange’s team is not hiding their candidate’s willingness to explore a legislative amnesty to replace DACA.

As Breitbart News’s Neil Munro has written, this type of bill could potentially result in legalization and eventual citizenship for nearly four million illegal aliens.

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