Thursday, October 28, 2010

First time USCIS has halted an EB-5 regional center

By Brooke Edwards of the Victor Valley Daily Press

VICTORVILLE, Calif. • The federal government has terminated Victorville’s foreign investor program, ending the city’s hopes to raise tens of millions of dollars for projects at Southern California Logistics Airport.

It’s the first time U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has ever terminated an EB-5 program, agency spokeswoman Mariana Gitmore said by phone Tuesday. She said Victorville hadn’t been able to demonstrate that it meets the criteria to raise funds through the federal program, despite repeated requests for more information.

USCIS approved Victorville’s application as an EB-5 Regional Center in June 2009, allowing the city to solicit $500,000 loans from foreign citizens so long as that money helps create 10 local jobs. In exchange, the foreign lenders are put on the fast track to getting U.S. visas.

USCIS sent the city a rare notice of intent to terminate its EB-5 program in May, raising questions about whether Victorville had misrepresented itself in marketing the program and if projects such as the stalled Victorville 2 power plant are still viable.

The Daily Press has regularly been asking for updates on the status of the program. Most recently, the Daily Press sent an e-mail Monday morning asking whether Victorville had heard back from USCIS. City spokeswoman Yvonne Hester deferred to City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky, who still hadn’t responded to requests for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

USCIS sent its final termination notice Oct. 20.

The website remained active Tuesday afternoon, still touting Victorville’s EB-5 program even though USCIS ordered any advertisement to stop with its first notice back in May.