President Joe Biden's nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement reportedly took a trip to China in 2015 that was paid for by a group that advocates allowing people to obtain a U.S. visa in exchange for investing in domestic projects, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
The Free Beacon reported that Texas state ethics records show Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff of Harris County, Texas since 2017, has financial ties to Houston EB5, a group that backs the EB-5 visa program — and the association could cause complications during his confirmation hearing.
The EB-5 program allows foreign investors to get expedited green cards if they invest a minimum of $900,000 in U.S. businesses, typically through real estate, according to the Free Beacon.
"This is a great example of why EB-5 is hopelessly flawed. The program attracts lobbyists, big corporations, and high-dollar donations to politicians who support it," said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the anti-illegal immigration group the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "It is everything ordinary Americans hate about the Washington swamp. Congress should probe this matter in great detail at [Gonzalez's] confirmation hearing."
A spokesperson for Gonzalez's office told the Free Beacon only that "the event you're asking about happened in 2015, two years before Sheriff Gonzalez took office.”
The Free Beacon also reported that some of Gonzalez's top donors were supporters of the same visa program. One donor, who contributed $19,000 to his last campaign for sheriff, is the CEO of St. Christopher Holdings, a company that has invested heavily in both Houston EB5 and DC Partners, its parent company.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also faced controversy due to the EB-5 program, having been investigated by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general when he was a deputy secretary during the Obama Administration.
Mayorkas said after that report was issued that “The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS. There was erroneous decision-making and insufficient security vetting of cases. I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes.”
He later told Congress: "As to the three cases, the Office of Inspector General found that through my involvement, I allowed some agency colleagues to develop the perception that I was favoring individuals with an interest in these cases. I thought I had taken steps to guard against this very possibility; even an appearance of impropriety is not acceptable to me."
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