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Coronavirus grift? Pending bill said to halve the minimum for EB-5 investors, though Graham denies it. (An issue not just for "immigration hardliners.")

Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness, ProPublica reported yesterday, regarding Richard Burr (R-NC). NPR added to that, reporting that he offered far more dire warnings to well-off constituents than the public at large.

There are also stories about Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), James Imhofe (R-OK), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) selling stock. The situations aren't all the same--Loeffler claims it was a third-party decision; Feinstein's husband was the seller--but it looks bad/shameful/illegal, depending on the circumstances.

The EB-5 grift

But I want to write about another version of grifting. Politico reported on 3/18/20:
The Trump administration is considering a controversial proposal to boost the number of visas offered to wealthy immigrants who invest money in the United States as it tries to boost a faltering economy amid the escalating coronavirus outbreak, according to four people familiar with the situation.
The proposal, which could be included in one of the Senate’s coronavirus rescue bills, would significantly boost the number of visas offered annually from 10,000 to 75,000 while halving the investment required to earn legal residence from $900,000 to $450,000, they say.
While there may be an argument in boosting the number of visas by a lesser number, given the backlog of people who've already invested, there's no justification for cutting the minimum from $900,000 to $450,000.

Remember, it was just raised to $900,000 after decades at $500,000, with no adjustment for inflation.

According to Politico:
The expansion is being pushed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Trump ally who has supported easing restrictions in the past, according to one of the people. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Note: interviewed by Fox News last night, Graham--asked by a very-EB-5 supporting Sean Hannity--emphatically denied the Politico report. "This is not the time or the place" to put it in the coronavirus bill. "The president supports the program, I do too."

(Of course, supporting the program can mean a lot of things, given the contours of minimum investment, definition of gerrymandering areas of high unemployment, etc.)

The Wall Street Journal in January reported that Graham, along with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John Cornyn (R-TX), was behind a different effort to dilute the EB-5 reforms.

Unfortunate framing

Politico wrote:
Immigration hardliners, who are generally supportive of President Donald Trump’s policies, oppose the proposal because of concerns about increasing the number of foreigners coming to the U.S., especially from China, which Trump blames for its handling of the coronavirus.
“Using a coronavirus package to give more green cards to shady investors from the country where the virus originated would be Washington at its worst."
But it's not just "immigration hardliners" who should be concerned, it's simply "good government hardliners," as I tweeted.

It's also likely to be opposed by those representing rural states, who hope for a greater percentage of the investments, which have long gone to purportedly high-unemployment areas in cities, thanks to gerrymandering.