The original plan was to attract foreign investment to blighted neighborhoods. But instead, the controversial EB-5 investor visa enabled affluent Chinese to park their cash in high-end real estate in Beverly Hills and Manhattan -- benefiting developers such as Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Now the visas criticized as "green cards for cash" face a questionable future, with some members of Congress refusing to reauthorize the program, which expired Friday, unless there is significant reform.
Proponents of the program argue that the investor visas provide capital for economic development. Critics say it encourages a two-tier immigration system favoring the rich over those fleeing wars, persecution and poverty.
"These are wealthy investors whose main goal is to secure the visa as quickly as possible," saidGary Friedland, an investments and capital markets scholar in residence at New York University whose research focuses on EB-5 capital. "The way to do that is to invest in the safest projects that are most likely to be completed in the shortest period of time."
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