The other 1-percenters: Your tax dollars are enabling rich EB-5 immigrants to jump the line

The other 1-percenters: Your tax dollars are enabling rich EB-5 immigrants to jump the line

The Obama administration’s fetish for wealthy foreign nationals — expressed through relentless promotion of an immigrant investor program — has spilled over to a little-known bureaucratic backwater: the Ombudsman’s Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The office was originally established to help poor, marginally literate migrants navigate their way into America. Now it turns out that the richest immigrants, seeking green cards through the scandal-plagued EB-5 visa-investor program, get a disproportionate share of the ombudsman’s service at taxpayer expense.

According to David North, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies:

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The folks getting four and a half times the average attention of this office are fully documented millionaires, all with lawyers at their beck and call.

They have [usually] made their half-million-dollar investment, and now want their EB-5 visas, and they get the services of the USCIS Office of the Ombudsman to help them make that visa purchase.

The Ombudsman’s Office is a small $6.4 million cog in the multibillion-dollar immigration machine overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. Its 30 employees handled 9,448 cases during fiscal 2015.

Of those cases, 418 — or 4.5% — involved affluent foreign investors seeking to buy “family-sized sets of green cards,” North noted.

EB-5 visas — capped at 10,000 annually — make up only 1% of the 1 million aliens granted permanent resident status each year.

“This obscure [EB-5] form is the third most popular of those treated by the ombudsman, trailing only applications for work permits and for naturalization,” North said.

While the cost of USCIS visa processing is funded primarily through user fees, the Ombudsman’s Office runs on tax dollars – making its assistance free to wealthy visa seekers.

“It’s another case of ‘Thems that have, gits,’” North said of the treatment of EB-5 applicants.

Ombudsman Maria Odom said her office recorded a 270% increase in requests for assistance in the past four years.

She acknowledged that EB-5 processing times have “degraded” amid “allegations and findings of fraud or noncompliance with other federal laws; the manipulation of Targeted Employment Areas through gerrymandering; and the inconsistent implementation of policy.”

Read more by Kenric Ward at

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”


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