I recently had the opportunity to travel to China to meet and speak with Chinese business leaders and learn about their challenges and listen to their ideas about growth, their perception of the United States and how we can improve the business relationship between the two countries.
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Like us, all of the people of China want the best for their families and children. I learned from the people I met with that there is great concern in China about the environmental problems – incredible pollution of the air and water.
There were also many concerns voiced about the economic stability of China and how it will work through some of its economic challenges. The primary focus of many of my meetings was the success of, and continuation of the EB-5 investment program. The Chinese business leaders that I met with are looking for solid investment projects in the United States that will offer stability, a good return on their investment and an opportunity to maximize the immigration benefits that the EB-5 program offers.
As someone who served in the U.S. Senate for three years, I’m rarely surprised to see parochial interests threatening to ruin perfectly good government policies. But recent myopia and naval gazing over the fate of the EB-5 Regional Center Program—an initiative that has created tens of thousands of jobs and brought billions of dollars in private investment into the U.S. at no cost to taxpayers—has even me scratching my head.
Some in Congress have argued that urban and suburban areas unfairly benefit from the foreign investment dollars pooled by EB-5 regional centers. So in an effort to “punish” the program’s success in major urban gateway markets, they have introduced proposals that would severely disadvantage hundreds of mid-sized cities and suburbs across the country by redefining the way Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) are defined.
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TEAs are rural areas typically with pockets of high unemployment that are eligible for a lower level of EB-5 investment. Regrettably, the Senate proposal in question would redefine these areas in a way that favors rural pockets of the country at the expense of the more populated communities where most Americans actually live and work. We’re not just talking about major metro areas like Boston and New York that would be impacted —mid-sized cities like Columbus, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Ft. Worth would also suffer under this proposal.
Contrary to what some would have you believe, EB-5 was never intended to be a purely rural program. Rather, it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush as a tool for bringing private investment into the U.S and sparking job growth anywhere and everywhere in the United States. The U.S Department of Agriculture already operates roughly 50 programs designed for the sole purpose of boosting rural communities, to the tune of billions of dollars in federal funds each year.
There is no evidence to suggest that these programs are somehow falling short of their intended purpose, or that EB-5 is a needed proxy. Why should we take an effective program—one that is creating jobs and driving growth at no taxpayer expense—and retool it to duplicate federal programs already in operation?
Instead of playing politics or deepening regional divides in America, lawmakers should be cheering the success of this incredibly effective, private-sector led program, and looking for ways to maximize its job-creating impact for Americans. This program should be re-authorized immediately and help our economy grow, not add more road blocks to our economic recovery.