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visa eb5

What should we know about the Paris climate agreement?

President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States the the Paris climate agreement. The deal, joined by all but two countries (Syrian and Nicaragua), is a broad framework designed to nudge nations to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The deal was the result of tense negotiations in December 2015 and what it does is pretty simple. Let's have a look:

The goal of the Paris agreement is the global target of keeping global average temperatures from rising by the end of the century. Beyond 2 degrees, we risk dramatically higher seas, changes in weather patterns, food and water crises, and an overall more hostile world.

But the agreement doesn’t detail exactly how these countries should do so. Instead it provides a framework for getting momentum going on greenhouse gas reduction, with some oversight and accountability. Under Trump’s current policies, that goal is impossible.

A lot of countries have agreed to it. But there’s also no defined punishment for breaking it.

So as part of the Paris agreement, richer countries, like the US, are supposed to send $100 billion a year in aid by 2020 to the poorer countries. And that amount is set to increase over time. Again, like the other provisions of the agreement, this isn’t an absolute mandate.

The Paris agreement is largely symbolic, and it will live on even if Trump withdraws the US. But it will for sure weaken the global coalition around climate change.

Iranian National Challenges USCIS Investor Visa Denial

An Iranian national demanded in D.C. federal court Tuesday that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reconsider her petition for an investor visa leading to permanent resident status, alleging that she had complied with the visa requirements by investing $500,000 in a Washington state hotel project and was nevertheless wrongly denied.

Batool Sadeghzadeh claimed to have invested her funds into a Washington limited partnership to finance the development and operation of a 297-room Embassy Suites hotel called the Hotel Tower, rendering her and her young daughter eligible for permanent residency. She claims that USCIS unjustly denied her petition on the basis of what it deemed to be inadequate evidence of the proper legal path of her funds, violating the Immigration and Nationality Act and administrative procedure statutes, as well as her Fifth Amendment due process rights.

Up to 10,000 visas are available through the EB-5 immigrant investor program, which encompasses individuals investing a minimum of $500,000 with required amounts varying by area in a "new commercial enterprise" employing at least 10 new workers.

Sadeghzadeh argued that USCIS had overstepped its authority under the INA, abused its discretion, had conducted an erroneous survey of her supporting documents and had unreasonably delayed the processing of her visa application for years.

"The denial was replete with not only flawed legal conclusions, but also with factual errors, and bizarre claims about document translations, and missing translations or foreign language originals for documents that were in original English," the complaint states.

Sadeghzadeh requested that the court force USCIS to immediately approve her petition and compensate her for attorneys, as well as any other relief deemed proper. Representatives for USCIS declined to comment.


Rep. Labrador Introduces Davis-Oliver Act

House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) introduced the Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 2431) yesterday that would strengthen interior enforcement. The bill would protect and encourage jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE detainer requests and would target sanctuary jurisdictions by withholding federal grants.

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a markup of the bill on Thursday.

“The bill I’m introducing today, the Davis-Oliver Act, gives states and localities the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. We already entrust them with enforcing most categories of federal law, and immigration law should be no exception. The Davis-Oliver Act is a first and necessary step to modernize a broken immigration system. While other reforms are needed, my bill is vital to a long-term fix,” Rep. Labrador said in his press release.

The bill is named after Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver, two California deputy sheriffs who were murdered by illegal aliens.

Among other things, the bill:

·         Removes the President’s ability to unilaterally shut down immigration enforcement.

·         Strengthens ICE’s detainer authority by establishing probable cause standards to issue the detainers.

·         Withholds certain DOJ and DHS grants from sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to honor ICE detainer requests and prohibit their officers from communicating with ICE.

·         Protects law enforcement officers from lawsuits for complying with ICE detainer requests.

·         Allows ICE to not release criminal aliens into sanctuary jurisdictions and makes criminal gang members deportable.

·         Provides expedited removal of alien terrorists and prohibits foreign terrorists or removable immigrants who threaten national security from receiving immigration benefits, including naturalization.

·         Helps to prevent visa fraud by using advanced analytics software and requires USCIS to conduct fraud assessments and report to Congress.

·         Requires DHS and the State Department to utilize social media and other public available information when determining if a visa applicant is a security threat to the U.S.

·         Calls for the hiring of an additional 12,500 ICE officers.

Grassley Pushes for Quick Executive Actions to Curb EB-5 Visa Abuse

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley called on the Homeland Security Secretary to expedite proposed regulations targeting abuse and national security concerns in the EB-5 investor visa program, and to clarify that the department is processing EB-5 applications in a fair and transparent manner.  The request follows a recent extension of the EB-5 program without any reforms and a reported pitch by Kushner Companies implying that potential investors should invest soon to avoid changes in program rules.

The EB-5 program, which has been riddled with well-documented fraud and national security vulnerabilities, was extended last week without any reforms, despite efforts by Grassley and others to restore integrity in the program. Regulations proposed by the Obama Administration and under consideration by the Trump Administration would address some of the program’s weaknesses. Investors typically face a two-year wait for the limited number of EB-5 visas. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Grassley pointed out that, given the backlog of applicants, new investors would be subject to the program’s rules at the time their visas become available, despite the comments made by representatives of Kushner Companies.

“As you know, EB-5 applicants ordinarily wait at least two years for a petition to be processed and for visas to become available.  Ms. Meyer’s statements, however, could seem to imply that foreign nationals who invest with the Kushner Company will receive special treatment and expedited approval.  It is appropriate for the Department to clarify and affirm that no foreign investors will receive preferential treatment, that applications will be processed in the order in which they are received—subject to any existing backlog—and that future applications will be subject to the proposed regulations, when approved,” Grassley said in the letter.   

In the letter, Grassley called on the Trump Administration to continue moving forward with the regulations in an open and transparent manner.

Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner, the previous CEO of Kushner Companies, has divested from Kushner Companies, in compliance with Office of Government Ethics requirements.

US sues Google for allegedly paying female employees less than males

The US Department of Labor is suing Google over findings that the company routinely pays female employees less than their male counterparts.

The government agency noted at a hearing before a federal judge in San Francisco last Friday that it “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” at the company. It pointed to pay disparities in salaries from 2015 and has demanded that the company the company disclose additional records to aid in the investigation.

Speaking to The Guardian, DoL regional solicitor Janet Herold said that the probe is still underway, and that the agency has “received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”

She added: “The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”

However, Google disagreed with the claim and said that the agency hadn’t shared any data or disclosed what methodology it used to come to this conclusion.

As a federal contractor, Google is required to allow the DoL to check its records for compliance with equal opportunity laws. The agency has locked horns with the company over a request for such data from last year, with Google claiming that it had already handed over plenty of data but refused to hand over more information that’s necessary to proceed with the investigation.

Last week, Google announced in a tweet that it had closed the pay gap for all roles within its organization’s operations across the globe. Given that and the fact that all eyes are on the tech industry to learn which firms are engaging in unlawful and discriminatory practices, it’d be surprising to learn that the company would be obtuse enough to allow managers to award women with lower salaries than men in 2017.

The Kushner family lures investments from wealthy business owners in China with the promise of American visas.

The Kushner family lures investments from wealthy business owners in China with the promise of American visas.

Nicole Kushner Meyer, the sister of White House adviser and President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, spoke at an event in Beijing on Saturday. She was marketing a Kushner-owned property in New Jersey -- invest in the development and get into the United States on a so-called EB-5 visa.

An ad for the event, held at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, said "Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States."

The EB-5 visa has been used by the Trump and Kushner family businesses.

On Saturday, potential investors in the Kushner project were told they should act quickly because possible policy changes to the EB-5 program might raise the required minimum investment.

Nicole Kushner Meyer also mentioned Jared's new position in the White House. President Trump photo appeared on a slide that listed the "key decision makers" on the EB-5 program.

"In 2008, my brother Jared Kushner joined the family company as CEO, and recently moved to Washington to join the administration," she said.

The most amazing thing about this is how brazen it is. They sent Kushner’s own sister to China to make the pitch, seemingly to remind potential investors just how direct their pipeline to the Oval Office could be.

Jared Kushner serves as an influential senior adviser to the president. Trump has at various times said he would lead or play a key role in many policy areas from foreign affairs to business innovation.

The event was meant to draw investors for 1 Journal Square, a $976.4 million residential and commercial project underway in New Jersey. The company says about 15% of it will be funded through the EB-5 program.

Attendees at the presentation surely understood how politically connected the Kushners are even without his sister getting into specifics. The materials noted the family’s “celebrity” status — wink wink. And the Chinese upper crust are very familiar with how regimes operate where gaining influence requires making nice with “princelings,” i.e. children of the political elite. At Saturday’s event, attendee Wang Yun, a Chinese investor, said the Kushner family’s ties to Trump were an obvious part of the project’s appeal. “Even though this is the project of the son-in-law’s family, of course it is still affiliated,” Wang said.

All of that being so, an EB-5 pitch from the “princeling” Kushners carries two special charms to a foreign investor. One, it provides an unusual degree of confidence that the investment/bribe will in fact produce the visa they’re after (which federal immigration bureaucrat would dare slow-walk a Kushner investor?), and two, it carries the potential for a relationship with the president himself. The EB-5 is known as “the golden visa” among Chinese but an EB-5 via the Kushners is really more of a platinum visa. The only more attractive “investment” opportunity in the U.S. for a wealthy foreigner would be one with the Trump family itself.

So obvious is the stench of conflicts of interest from this that organizers at the Kushner event in Beijing yesterday reportedly panicked once they discovered there were NYT and WaPo reporters there to cover it and ended up hassling them even though it was advertised as a public event. The Beijing event, which was organized by Chinese immigration agency Qiaowai, was open to the public. Reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times attended but said they were later harassed and forcefully removed.


United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth District granted a petition for review of the denial of a motion to reconsider determination in reinstatement removal proceedings

The panel granted a petition for review of the denial of a motion to reconsider or reopen a negative reasonable fear determination in reinstatement removal proceedings. An immigration judge affirmed an asylum officer’s determination that petitioner failed to establish a reasonable fear of persecution in reinstatement removal proceedings. Petitioner filed a motion to reconsider or reopen, which the IJ denied. Rather than directly petitioning this court for review, petitioner filed an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Board dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Petitioner then filed the present petition for review within 30 days of the Board’s decision. The panel first held that this court has jurisdiction over petitions for review from negative reasonable fear determinations in the context of the reinstatement of an expedited removal order. The panel next held that under all the circumstances of this case, including the fact that the IJ’s decision on the motion advised petitioner of a right to appeal to the Board, even though no such right exists, the Board’s decision constituted the final order of removal, and the petition is therefore timely.

Turning to the merits, the panel held that the IJ abused his discretion in denying the motion to reconsider or reopen. The panel held that the IJ erred in concluding that extortion could not constitute persecution because extortion, plus the threat of violence, on the basis of a protected characteristic, can constitute persecution. Noting that petitioner sought only withholding of removal and not asylum, and therefore needed to establish only that a protected characteristic was “a reason” motivating the extortionate acts, the panel remanded to the IJ to determine whether petitioner established an “extortion plus” claim of persecution, based on her claimed extortion due to her family ties.

EB-5 Pilot Program (Regional Centers) is Extended thru September 30, 2017.

Early Monday morning, a bipartisan omnibus spending deal was filed by Congressional Leadership to fund the government through September 30, 2017. This deal includes a clean extension of the EB-5 Regional Center Program through the same date.

Bill Text (p. 734):

SEC: 542. Section 610(b) of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (8 U.S.C. 1153 note) shall be applied by substituting "September 30, 2017" for "September 30, 2015".

Explanatory Statement (p. 65):

Section 542. A new provision is included extending the Regional Center program within the "EB-5" immigrant investor program authorization until September 30, 2017.

Trump administration approves tougher visa vetting, including social media checks

The Trump administration has rolled out a new questionnaire for U.S. visa applicants worldwide that asks for social media handles for the last five years and biographical information going back 15 years.

The new questions, part of an effort to tighten vetting of would-be visitors to the United States, was approved on May 23 by the Office of Management and Budget despite criticism from a range of education officials and academic groups during a public comment period.

Critics argued that the new questions would be overly burdensome, lead to long delays in processing and discourage international students and scientists from coming to the United States.

Under the new procedures, consular officials can request all prior passport numbers, five years' worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history. 

Officials will request the additional information when they determine "that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting," a State Department official said on Wednesday.