Rich EB-5 Investors Get Undue Attention From USCIS Ombudsman Office

By David North on July 12, 2016

Here’s a government agency with millions of clients, mostly low-income, mostly with limited to no English.

The agency rarely allows interviews between those seeking benefits and decision-makers. It routinely relies on forms, written in English, when making its decisions.

The agency (USCIS) has established a special office (that of the omsbudsman) to help the low-income, marginally literate portion of the migrant population it serves to wend its way through these obstacles, a perfectly appropriate move.

So, in this setting, who gets a disproportionate amount of the ombudsman’s attention?

Well, it’s the familiar 1%.

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, to be more specific, they want and get the services of the USCIS Office of the Ombudsman to help them make that visa purchase.

The Obama administration’s odd fondness for the rich of other nations, as expressed through its relentless promotion of the immigrant investor program, has spilled over to the work of the tiny ombudsman’s office. (The last time I looked it had a staff of 30.)

Instead of saying to the rich aliens, as an egalitarian official might say, “No, we will not provide services to the wealthy, who have full access to lawyers and courts,” the office not only helps these rich aliens, it reports that such requests for assistance have doubled in the last year.

Needless to say, the recently released, 104-page Annual Report to Congress from this agency does not point out this help-the-rich tilt of its work. In the report’s appendices, on p. 82, we learn that it handled 9,448 cases during FY 2015, and then, in an unrelated statistic on the next page, we find that 418 of the cases related to the Form I-526, filed by rich aliens as they seek to buy a family-sized set of green cards for a half million dollar investment in a project approved by, but not guaranteed by, the Department of Homeland Security.

This obscure form is the third most popular of those treated by the ombudsman trailing only the applications for a work permit and for naturalization.

Here’s where the 1% comes from. Every year the limit for immigrant investor visas is 10,000; every year we welcome about 1,000,000 aliens into permanent resident status. Thus, about one percent of the visas go to EB-5 types. However, 418 is about 4.5% of 9,448.

So, even in an office created to help the least gifted (or least lucky) of the flow of migrants, it is another case of “em’s that has gits.”