Thursday afternoon, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director John Sandweg expressing concerns about the abuse of the EB-5 visa program, specifically warning loopholes could allow Iranian terrorist operatives to infiltrate the United States. Grassley's inquiry came in response to an ICE memo raising the same concern.
"One section of the memo outlines 'concerns that this particular visa program [EB-5] may be abused by Iranian operative to infiltrate the United States...' Two of the operatives allegedly "facilitate terrorism and are involved in an illegal procurement network that exports items to Iran for use by 'secret' Iranian government agencies," Grassley wrote. "According to the memo, one of the operatives acted asa representative in the U.S. for an Iranian company allegedly run by an individual associated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."
The EB-5 program was created in 1990 as a way to stimulate the economy through foreign investors.
Earlier this year, Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar was sentenced for plotting with Iranian officials and Mexican drug cartel members to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. The plan was to bomb a Washington D.C. restaurant where the Ambassador regularly ate. At the time Arbabsiar was arrested, he was in possession of both an Iranian and U.S. passport and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. As a reminder, Iran serves as the state sponsor for the world's largest terror organization Hezbollah, which is rapidly growing in Latin America.
According to ICE, the EB-5 visa program has a number of vulnerabilities including:
1) Export of sensitive technology/economic espionage;
2) Use by foreign government agents/espionage;
3) Use by terrorists;
4) Investment fraud by regional center;
5) Investment fraud by investors;
6) Fraud conspiracies by investors and regional center; and
7) Illicit finance/money laundering.
In addition, it seems immigrants who obtain EB-5 visas are not closely tracked once they enter the United States.
"It is important that Congress have statistics on what happens after individuals enter the U.S. on an EB-5 visa," Grassley wrote. "Foreign investors who participate in the EB-5 program may receive conditional permanent residence for a two-year period. However, it seems unlikely that they are ever removed from the country even if the conditions of their conditional status are not met because the required jobs werenâ€™t created within the required period."
Grassley has requested ICE submit recommendations and data about how to close these loopholes by January 1, 2014.