Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has attacked China and warned about the dangers of deficient immigrant screening.
“They’ve taken our jobs, they’ve taken our money, they’ve taken everything,” he said of China in a speech late last month. He has called for a revamping, even a freezing, of the immigration system, but says he would make an exception for the highly-skilled.
Yet no skills are required of the wealthy Chinese being courted by a Chinese-subtitled video to help finance a huge Trump-branded tower in New Jersey. The video leads viewers behind the wheel of a car into Jersey City with scenes of the tower, all to the tune of the theme song from The Sopranos, “Woke Up This Morning.”
The video was produced to help raise tens of millions of dollars through a controversial government program that offers expedited visas to foreign investors overwhelmingly from China. While the program has many supporters who argue it attracts foreign capital and creates jobs at no U.S. taxpayer cost, congressional overseers and Homeland Security have raised sharp concerns. Applicants are sometimes cleared in less than a month and the critics say the government is essentially selling visas to wealthy foreigners with no proven skills, paving the way for money laundering and compromising national security.
Trump Bay Street is a 50-story luxury rental apartment building being built by Kushner Companies, whose chief executive officer, Jared Kushner, is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. It will have an outdoor pool, indoor golf simulator and sweeping views of Lower Manhattan; it adjoins an existing high rise condo, Trump Plaza Residence. The firm that was hired to seek investors, US Immigration Fund, is run by Florida developer Nicholas Mastroianni, who announced a partnership last year with a Trump golf course in Jupiter, Florida.
The visa program is known as EB-5. In exchange for investing at least $500,000 in a project promising to create jobs, foreigners receive a two-year visa with a good chance of obtaining permanent residency for them and their families. In 2014, the most recent year for which records are available, the U.S. issued 10,692 of these visas — 85% to people from China.
The Jersey City project has raised $50 million, about a quarter of its funding, from loans obtained through EB-5, according to a slide presentation by US Immigration Fund. Mark Giresi, general counsel of US Immigration Fund, said he believed nearly all of the EB-5 investors in the Trump project were from China.
Asked for a comment for this article, a Trump spokeswoman said by email, “This was a highly successful license deal but he is not a partner in the financing of the development.” She did not respond to questions about EB-5. A Kushner spokeswoman said the project was entirely legal and creating jobs.