A program that gives coveted immigrant green cards to wealthy foreign investors was so susceptible to fraud and abuse that it was used by an Iranian network that sought to send banned high technology home and spread terrorism abroad, federal investigators said.
The EB-5 program was used by “a network involved in a series of international assassinations and terrorism operations” that also was “procuring a variety of goods for Iranian entities,” states an unsigned memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made public Thursday. The memo was written in response to questions asked by Janet A. Napolitano as homeland security secretary.
The memo called the EB-5 program a weak point in the nation’s immigration security because visa holders can become green card holders and eventually citizens — without going through the background checks that most prospective immigrants face. The program is designed to attract foreigners who pledge to invest in the U.S. economy.
Angry law enforcement officials accused Mr. Grassley of potentially jeopardizing ongoing investigations, but the version his office released was heavily redacted, with all names removed.
Peter Boogaard, a department spokesman, said all visa applications from the center in question had been put on hold while a thorough investigation is carried out. “Federal investigators found no evidence to suggest that the regional center was being used for nefarious purposes and, following the completion of that investigation, the request to hold all cases was formally lifted,” he said.
But the allegations will darken the heavy cloud over the EB-5 program, which has snagged one Obama nomination to the troubled Homeland Security Department and now threatens to embroil Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.