Legislative Activity

Senate Judiciary Committee Confirms Hearing on EB-5 Target Employment Areas

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its second hearing of the year examining the EB-5 Regional Center Program.  This program is designed to bolster the U.S. economy by incentivizing investment from foreigners in exchange for legal permanent residence.  The FY 2016 omnibus appropriations measure passed by Congress at the end of 2015 extended the EB-5 Regional Center Program for the remainder of the Fiscal Year.  The Wednesday hearing will include two separate panels.  First, Committee members will hear from Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and John Conyers, Jr., (D-MI), Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Judiciary Committee.  The second panel will include four private sector witnesses:  Daniel Healy, Chief Executive Officer, Cavitas Capital Group; Timothy Whipple, Former General Counsel, Iowa Economic Development Authority; Peter Joseph, Invest In The USA; and Gary Friedland, New York University Stern School Of Business.

Lawmakers are currently debating whether to overhaul the program in light of what some argue is a need to better protect against potential abuse, refocus investment in areas that need it most, and increase the minimum levels of funds required to participate in the program.  Projects slated for Targeted Employment Areas require a lower investment amount, $500,000, as compared to $1 million elsewhere.  These rural or high unemployment areas must meet specific criteria to qualify, but, given the lower threshold, can serve as attractive candidates for foreign investment.  During a February 2 hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) expressed his concern that the EB-5 Program lacks sufficient oversight and suffers from corruption and serious weaknesses, potentially implicating national security.  Chairman Grassley believes the program must be reformed before it can be reauthorized beyond September 30, an issue that will certainly be debated by lawmakers over the months to come.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, April 12: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management will hold a hearing titled “FEMA: Assessing Progress, Performance, and Preparedness.”
  • Wednesday, April 13: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Distortion of EB-5 Targeted Employment Areas: Time to End the Abuse.”
  • Thursday, April 14: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Federal Perspective on the State of Our Nation’s Biodefense.”
  • Thursday, April 14: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a meeting to consider legislation and nominations.
  • Tuesday, April 19: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security will hold a hearing titled “Keeping Pace with Trade, Travel, and Security: How Does CBP Prioritize and Improve Staffing and Infrastructure.”

Executive Branch Activity

Brussels Attacks Prompt Security Reassessments in US, Could Increase Summer Travel Delays

Americans can expect longer security lines going into the summer holiday season following the recent Brussels attacks.  Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), confirmed that U.S. security officials are reassessing current procedures and indicated summer travelers could see an increased security presence in airports and an uptick in random searches.  In remarks to reporters on Friday, Neffenger explained that his agency would be increasing bomb-sniffing dogs, random bag checks, and security patrols (including of public areas).  He warned travelers to arrive at airports early to allow extra time for security lines.  Neffenger was arriving on a flight to Brussels and taxiing to the gate when the bombs went off at the departures area of the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill currently under debate in the Senate includes provisions aimed at tightening airport security.  The chamber passed amendments increasing airport worker vetting, expanding TSA “viper” teams that conduct searches of suspicious individuals, and doubling the number of TSA bomb-sniffing dogs.