Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Cash-for-Visas Program

Michelle Malkin

As part of his warmed-over jobs plan, President Obama is repackaging "Buy American" stimulus subsidies to help hard-hit homegrown businesses. At the same time, however, Congress is pushing to expand a fraud-riddled investor program that puts U.S. citizenship for sale to the highest foreign business bidders. Call it the Buy America Cash-for-Visas plan.

As I first reported 10 years ago, the EB-5 immigrant investor program was created under an obscure section of the 1990 Immigration Act. The law allows 10,000 wealthy foreigners a year to purchase green cards by investing between $500,000 and $1 million in new commercial enterprises or troubled businesses. After two years, foreign investors, their spouses and their children all receive permanent resident status -- which allows them to contribute to U.S. political campaigns and provides a speedy gateway to citizenship. The program is set to expire in 2012.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee's Immigration subpanel entertained calls to save the EB-5 law. Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren is sponsoring a bill to salvage the immigrant investor visas. The legislation (sponsored by open-borders Democrat John Kerry and Republican Richard Lugar in the Senate) also creates a second program with lower barriers to entry that would provide "start-up visas" for foreign entrepreneurs. They would be granted unconditional permanent-resident status if they create a government-determined number of jobs.

And there's the rub. Obama's make-believe math on stimulus jobs saved or created -- coupled with the snowballing $535 million, stimulus-funded Solyndra solar company bankruptcy scandal -- tells you all you need to know about Washington's credibility in picking economic winners and losers.

If the feds can't be trusted to invest government subsidies wisely in American companies, how can they possibly determine which overseas investors will be successful here? And if top U.S. loan officials have demonstrated such sloppy, politically driven disregard for financial due diligence on risky half-billion-dollar enterprises, how can immigration officials be trusted to better protect the national interest?

Answer: They can't. In fact, the benefits of the EB-5 economic development plan have gone to former Immigration and Naturalization Service officials who formed lucrative limited partnerships to cash in on their access, and to shady foreign fraudsters.

Whistleblowers told me how immigrant investors paid token fees to these partnerships. The partnerships secured promissory notes for the remainder of the foreign investments, which were forgiven after investors received their permanent green cards. Former INS employees, working for these partnerships, aggressively lobbied their old colleagues to accept such bogus financial arrangements. As a result, according to an internal U.S. Justice Department investigative report, "aliens were paying $125K" instead of the required $500,000 to $1 million minimum, and "almost all of the monies went to the General Partners and the companies who set up the limited partners."

In 2007, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the "program between 1995 and 1998 was frequently abused when would-be immigrants were allowed to pay a small amount in cash for a green card, signing a promissory note for the balance. The note didn't come due for several years -- long after the two-year conditional period built into the EB-5 visa had ended and permanent residency had been granted."

An earlier Baltimore Sun investigation found "only a tiny fraction of the money ever made it to the companies seeking assistance." Many of the distressed U.S. firms that the program intended to help have closed because they never received promised funding.

Instead of allowing the troubled program to sunset, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has "streamlined" the EB-5 immigrant investor green card process -- guaranteeing processing within 15 calendar days for foreign business "projects that are fully developed and ready to be implemented." The same expedited rush for government-directed investments gave us Solyndra. What's worse in this case is the sordid peddling of the privileges of citizenship.

Twenty years ago, when the program's failures were first exposed, Rep. John W. Bryant, a Texas Democrat, protested on the House floor: "This provision is an unbelievable departure from our tradition of cherishing our most precious birthright as Americans. Have we no self-respect as a nation? Are we so broke we have to sell our birthright?"

Apparently so.


Illegal immigrant lived in British hospital for more than a year despite being well because red tape prevented doctors discharging him

An illegal immigrant who had no entitlement to NHS care has spent 13 months blocking a hospital bed – at a cost to taxpayers of £100,000.

The Pakistani national should have left the country when his visa expired four years ago. He became an ‘overstayer’ and was still in Britain when he suffered a heart attack last summer.

The unidentified man received treatment and was declared fit enough to be discharged in August last year. But he has remained on a ward ever since because the UK Border Agency has been unable to fix a date with Pakistan International Airlines to fly him back to his home country. Although fit to be discharged, he does need long-term nursing care, which would ordinarily be provided in the community or by a care home.

The case came to light after it was raised in Parliament by Tory MP Margot James, who branded the delays ‘an outrageous abuse of NHS resources’ and an ‘appalling case of bureaucratic inertia’.

It is understood the delay in discharging him from Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley has in part been caused by difficulties in arranging for a medical escort to accompany him home, while his family in Pakistan have struggled to find suitable nursing care for him there.

The patient could not be transferred to an immigration removal centre pending deportation because they do not have the facilities to care for his medical needs.

Miss James, MP for Stourbridge, decided to raise the matter in Parliament after Paula Clark, chief executive of the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, contacted her saying she was still awaiting a discharge date from the UK Border Agency.

During Home Office questions on Tuesday, Miss James called on immigration minister Damian Green to ensure illegal immigrants who receive NHS treatment are repatriated as soon as that treatment is concluded.

The minister said the Government took a robust stance on abuse of NHS services and the patient would be removed in the ‘near future’. The MP said although the man was not eligible for NHS treatment, ‘we’re not the sort of country to refuse medical care and I don’t think we should be’.

She added: ‘The failure in the system was the failure to remove him when his visa ran out and the fact that the UK Border Agency and Pakistan International Airlines couldn’t get their act together.’

The patient was initially treated at the Royal London Hospital following a heart attack and subsequent hypoxic brain injury, but was transferred to Dudley in July 2010 because he had a relative there.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘NHS managers need to explain why they spent so much money on a bed blocker not entitled to free health care in the UK. They’re running a hospital not a hotel. Taxpayers can’t afford to pay for an international health service.’

Julie Bailey, of campaign group Cure the NHS, said it was ‘absurd’ that an illegal immigrant had been able to block a hospital bed for more than a year.

In theory, any foreigner who receives NHS treatment is meant to pay back all of its costs. But human rights laws state NHS staff must treat every patient who comes through their doors who has a life-threatening condition, even if they are not actually entitled to it. Many foreign patients fly home and illegal immigrants disappear without ever paying the NHS for their treatment.

The latest figures show that the NHS is owed around £7million from so-called health tourists who received some form of treatment in the last year alone.

In a statement on behalf of the hospital trust, Miss Clark said: ‘We are working with the UK Border Agency to ensure our patient is discharged safely and are awaiting a discharge date from them.

‘Our patient needed acute hospital care when admitted into hospital with complex medical conditions and was medically fit to be discharged in August 2010 but required ongoing nursing care. ‘The cost of care to the hospital has been in excess of £100,000.’

The UKBA said it first became aware of the case last December. Gail Adams, its regional director, said: ‘The NHS is a national, not an international, health service and we will not tolerate its abuse which is why arrangements for removal have been made in this complex case. We will remove those not entitled to remain in the country, even where medically difficult, and will provide medical escorts to remove those undergoing treatment if needed.’


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