That was obviously a calculated risk, because, in 2010, even more clearly deceptive tactics got a pass. Forest City Ratner raised $228 million (the original goal was $249 million) from investors who prized getting green cards over a significant return on their investment, which they'd park for five to seven years.
(The justification for the federal EB-5 program is that the investments create jobs, but indirect/induced jobs can be counted and, in the case of Atlantic Yards, the project would go ahead without that investment. It merely lowered Forest City's cost of capital and, astoundingly, is considered kosher.)
Proof on video
"Can you tell us about the advantage of this problems, and what difference from other projects?" Gregg Hayden, a representative of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), representing the deal, was asked on a webcast in 2010.
"The first major advantage is that the approval process, from USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services], having already been accomplished, takes all of the immigration risk out of the process for the EB-5 investor," Hayden responded, as shown below. (Emphasis added)
I asked the USCIS if acceptance of the regional center's application meant a specific project "has been completely pre-approved by USCIS" or that the immigration risk had been eliminated.
The answer was no.
USCIS spokeswoman Luz Irazabal told me at the time: “When we approve a regional center, or we approve an amendment to it, if it’s specific to that regional center, it does not mean that the petitions that are going to be filed have been pre-approved."
Can a project be “completely pre-approved by USCIS?" I asked, quoting Hayden's language.
Irazabal cautioned that she could not comment on specific projects, but responded, “USCIS either approves or denies a benefit. You’re either a U.S. citizen or you’re not. We don’t pre-adjudicate benefits.
As it happened, the first round of EB-5 investors have sailed through. So it was a calculated risk.