December of 2011 may well go down in EB-5 history as the time the program began experiencing heightened levels of interest from the public.
With the New York Times and CNN both covering EB-5, the volume of commentary about the program has grown significantly. And since the New York Times story picked up on issues involving TEA designations and accusations of gerrymandering, several prominent insiders are weighing in with their opinions on the matter, some of them right here on this blog.
Of course, this isn't the first time a large publication considered the goings-on of EB-5. Let's not forget that it was only a year prior to the latest Times article that Reuters published its huge exposé on the program, much of which focused on what that publication called "overselling" of EB-5 visas to foreign national immigrant investors.
Now the EB-5 program appears to be more visible to the public than at any time in recent memory. And the New York Times, as it happens, wasn't the only major publication to consider details about the program's administration.
EB-5 in the Economist
In an Economist piece published December 3, the news magazine points out how some immigrant investors are sending capital to limited partnerships that lend money to companies employing workers ? an action that is permissible since not all jobs created under the Regional Center Pilot Program need be created directly.
This "evolution of the EB-5 scheme has angered some of those offering traditional investments to immigrants," the article states, because it means investors can simply purchase local government bonds, which carry less risk.
As an example of such a project, the article refers to a Washington Regional Center effort in which EB-5 investors bought $48 million worth of Washington state bonds to replace a floating bridge near Seattle.
The Economist also interviewed Henry Liebman of American Life Regional Center, who asked why an investor would hand $500,000 to a developer when he or she "has the chance to buy a bond backed by the full faith and credit of the state." It's a good question, and it's easy to understand why this development makes some organizations seeking EB-5 capital a little nervous.
Overall, however, the Economist's view of the program was pretty rosy (if not also a bit ironic; the article subheading reads, "Give me your Gucci-clad masses"):
The Obama administration would like to see [the number of EB-5 investors] increase to 10,000 a year, which should bring in billions of dollars for building shops, offices and infrastructure. It should also mean tens of thousands of jobs for the poor, huddled masses of America?s unemployed.
In its praise, the Economist also managed (mostly) to portray the EB-5 program as a job creation effort as opposed to just a cash-for-green-cards scheme ? a depiction stakeholders ought to welcome.
More public radio coverage
As many of our readers know, NPR frequently runs stories on the EB-5 program, most of which contain basic information geared toward a general audience. Sometimes, they'll even focus on a project and show how it's creating jobs.
But on December 19, KPCC, a California NPR affiliate, asked readers and listeners to consider the following questions:
Are state authorities adhering to the spirit of the law? Federal regulators have said states determine whether projects are located in areas of greatest need, but should the federal government be doing more to ensure that states are using these funds properly? Is this system fair for those who want citizenship put [sic] don?t have an extra $500,000 to invest? Are there risks associated with having too much foreign money invested in U.S. real estate?
Needless to say, public responses to questions like these will run the gamut.
With competition for immigrant investors growing ever fiercer and concerns about the program's administration on the rise, we can probably expect to see even more media coverage of the EB-5 program in 2012, not to mention more commentary from the public.