Trump Towers Scandal: Properties Relied On Rich Chinese Investors Who Wanted Green Cards

Trump Tower
Many of Donald Trump’s financial investments have been buoyed by investors trying to buy access to a green card, reports show. Above: The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois, United States, January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

Another Trump Tower has been shown to receive support financially on a visa program that allows rich foreign investors to essentially purchase a green card for themselves. Trump Tower in Jersey City, New Jersey was funded largely by Chinese investors looking for a way to live and work in the U.S., as opposed to a good investment, as Bloomberg’s Jesse Drucker reports. The Immigrant Investor Program, known as EB-5, allows foreigners quickly obtain a permanent residency as long as they invest $1 million in a U.S. business, or $500,000 in less economically strong regions.

Trump is not the only businessman who has relied on EB-5 visa seekers to fund their projects. Investments under the EB-5 program have buoyed real estate markets in areas like Las Vegas and Miami. And it’s not just Chinese moguls that are injecting money into those markets. As we reported last August, EB-5 quotes encourage Latin Americans to invest as well. While Trump hotel financing in Miami and Las Vegas haven’t been tied directly to immigrant investors, they’ve arguably been helped by the overall boost to the real estate market in those cities.

However, Trump is the only immigrant-reliant building developer who has campaigned for the GOP nomination on a platform focused on attacking immigrants and the the Chinese. Some commentators point out that immigrant beneficiaries of Trump project investments under the EB-5 program are allowed shortcuts on national security screening, a shortcoming that he has strongly opposed for other immigration programs.

Slate’s Eric Posner called the investment visa “ possibly a dangerous scam that could benefit only money launderers and terrorists.” Whether or not the EB-5 program is a threat to public safety is debateable. As far as we can tell, no recipient of the EB-5 has ever committed an act of terrorism.

Trump, who is seen as an immigration enforcement hardliner, does not appear to apply the same standards to some visa programs as he does to others. For example, Trump called for a shutdown of the U.S. refugee program citing concerns about the vetting process. What’s less debatable is the level of security screening that both programs entail; the EB-5 screening process is less thorough.

In fairness, the businessman-turned-politician does tout his ability to “make deals,” with Chinese people, arguing perhaps that his experience dealing with investors can translate into political negotiation skills.  

What do you think?