Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday said that an effort by the sister of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner to offer U.S. visas to Chinese investors is a “stark conflict of interest” and called for the program’s elimination.
Nicole Kushner Meyer on Saturday appeared at an event urging Chinese citizens to invest $500,000 each in a New Jersey luxury apartment building that her company plans to develop. Jared Kushner previously oversaw the project until he left the company this year to be a senior adviser to President Trump, his father-in-law.
Meyer’s connection to Jared Kushner was mentioned during the sales pitch, and the company on Sunday said it “apologizes if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors.”
Feinstein, a California Democrat, had introduced legislation earlier this year with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, that called for the EB-5 visa program to be eliminated. Other members of Congress had put forward a proposal to overhaul the program, including raising the minimum investment from $500,00 to $1.3 million.
However, with the program set to expire, Congress on Thursday extended it without making changes. On Friday, Trump, who has called for strict enforcement of immigration laws, signed the extension as part of a massive spending bill.
Meyer gave her presentation in Beijing on Saturday. The Washington Post reported that a speaker at the conference told the Chinese to “invest early, and you will invest under the old rules.”
The Obama administration had proposed a number of program changes, including raising the minimum investment. The Trump administration could decide to implement those changes or come up with its own. A White House official said Sunday that the administration plans to review the program and might propose revisions.
Feinstein said that the program is “rife with fraud and abuse” and has been “exploited by real estate developers to finance projects in the wealthiest parts of this country,” even though it was designed to boost rural and distressed urban areas. The program requires that a $500,000 investment result in at least 10 jobs. An investor is allowed to live in the United States and can become a permanent resident after two years.
Feinstein expressed outrage at reports that Kushner’s name was invoked at the Beijing conference and that Trump’s picture reportedly was shown. She said that “presents a stark conflict of interests for the Trump White House.” She said the only way to eliminate the conflict is to allow the program to end when the spending bill expires at the end of September.
Grassley said in a statement Monday that the program “must be reformed or scrapped entirely,” noting that it had been extended “without needed reforms.” He urged the administration to come up with a proposal to address the program’s “well-documented flaws.”
Among the projects partly financed with EB-5 funds is a Kushner property jointly developed with the Trump organization called Trump Bay Street in Jersey City. It received $50 million in EB-5 money.