The dog days of summer have arrived. Congress is on a five-week holiday, er, excuse me, a “Summer District Work Period,” as the House calls it. The economy is in the doldrums. Gross Domestic Product grew a feeble 1.9% in the second quarter of 2008 from 0.9% in the first quarter. Foreclosures and bankruptcies are on the rise. Homeowners face unaffordable energy bills for gas, home heating and electricity. Civilian unemployment in July rose to 5.7%, up from January’s rate of 4.9%.
Amid the ashes of bad economic news, an immigration phoenix arises — the “Regional Center” program under the Employment-Creation EB-5 category for immigrants who invest $500,000 or $1 million in enterprises that directly or indirectly create at least 10 American jobs. According to Invest in the USA (IIUSA), an association of USCIS-approved regional centers, the EB-5 regional center program is estimated to create 400,000 new jobs through immigrants’ investments of $20 billion over the next five years.
These jobs will be lost, however, because the Senate is in summer-snooze mode. The statutory provision authorizing the regional center program will sunset on September 30, unless Congress acts promptly. Expiration of regional-center program authorization will likely put a freeze on new I-526 approvals and designations of additional regional centers. More important, it will scare off potential EB-5 investors and new investment opportunities.
Before recessing, the House approved HR 5569, a five-year reauthorization of the EB-5 regional-center program. A companion bill in the Senate is mired in disagreement over renewal of the controversial E-Verify program (which does not expire until November 30) and horse-trading over bills on religious workers, the Conrad 30 J-1 doctor waiver program and family reunification.
The federal government worked weekends and took quick steps when Bear Stearns was set to collapse and when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needed Uncle Sam’s financial guarantees. Why doesn’t the Senate get off its hammock and jumpstart economic growth by the simple, uncontroversial expedient of reviving the EB-5 regional-center legislation?
[Disclosure: With Steve Yale-Loehr and Nelson Mamey (a lawyer who prefers real estate finance and development over law practice), I own a recently approved regional center in Southern California.]