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As White House pushes new restrictions, Kushner under scrutiny for issuing green cards to investors

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Federal prosecutors in New York subpoenaed the company of President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner late Wednesday over their use of the EB-5 federal visa program. The program issues green cards to immigrants who invest $500,000 in U.S.-based developments, 85 percent of which are Chinese.

The irony of the subpoena is difficult to ignore. The Kushner family company is in trouble for essentially selling green cards at the same time the Trump administration is pushing a plan to curtail the number of green cards issued each year.  The new immigration policy President Trump rolled out Wednesday would crack down on legal immigration in favor of English-speaking, “high-skilled” workers. EB-5 applicants do not have a way of proving their level of “skill,” beyond the ability to finance projects for U.S. developers.

EB-5 visas, also known as “golden visas,” have faced scrutiny for lack of oversight. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) went as far as to call the program a “magnet for fraud.”  In 2015, the Government Accountability Office found that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (UCIS) did not have sufficient controls in place to identify potential fraud in the EB-5 program or to assess its economic impact. Trump reauthorized the EB-5 program the day before Jared’s sister, Nicole Kushner, pitched the visas to potential foreign investors.

While it isn’t clear what exactly is being probed by attorneys, the subpoena concerns the Kushner Companies development of a Jersey City residential property called One Journal Square. Financing for the property came under scrutiny in May when Nicole Kushner pitched the EB-5 visa program to a group of wealthy Chinese investors while in Beijing, telling the group it would “mean a lot to me and my entire family” if they invested.

According to reporters at the meeting, Nicole Kushner touted her brother’s close connection to the White House as a selling point. Kushner, in his role as White House senior adviser, has been at the forefront of the administration’s China policy. He played an instrumental role in arranging the meeting in April between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping that took place at Trump’s private club in Florida.

Soon after reports of Nicole Kushner’s pitch to Chinese investors circulated, Kushner Companies issued a statement to the Washington Post that said she “apologizes if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors. That was not Ms. Meyer’s intention.” The email noted that Jared Kushner “stepped away from the company in January and has nothing to do with this project.” Jared, however, still maintains connected to his company, which has continued to seek investment from China, even after he took his position in the White House. Despite divesting some assets, Jared remains the beneficiary of a series of trusts that own his stakes in the family’s company, in addition to other investments.

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