The trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas was fine. What wasn't was the resistance I still see and hear to establishing some nurturing management of the EB-5 Program. This is a job-creation program established by Congress in 1990 that has been mismanaged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for more than 20 years.
If USCIS were a big corporation instead of just a big, bloated government bureaucracy, there would have been a shareholder revolt and the EB-5 Program "management team" would have been fired many years ago. But federal government employees can't be fired. They can, however, be reassigned. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea at all.
There was an advocate for the EB-5 Program years ago, on the inside, in the same building where I met with Director Mayorkas, working every day to gin up positive activity in the EB-5 Program, but he was bureaucratically assassinated and has retired. The EB-5 community -- those of us out here trying to work this foreign investor immigrant visa program -- didn't know it at the time, but those were the "good old days."
To his credit, Mayorkas seems to know the EB-5 Program is in trouble, but he does not seem to know how to rescue it.
Part -- just part -- of the problem is that the USCIS employees (called immigration service officers, ISOs) "adjudicating" EB-5 visa cases in Laguna Niguel, California, treat every applicant like a terrorist or drug dealer and their money is considered dirty until proven clean, much like guilty until proven innocent. That's just part of the problem, but it's a really big part. ISOs are "adjudicating" these investor visa petitions using the wrong evidentiary standard.
Statute law, case law, and federal regulations agree: These cases are supposed to be examined using the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, which basically means "more likely than not". Instead requests for additional evidence I have seen clearly show that ISOs are using the "beyond a reasonable doubt" evidentiary standard.
Mayorkas has proposed accelerated and premium processing of "shovel ready" cases. Notice he used the word "cases", not "job-creation projects". I think that's telling.
He has proposed specialized intake teams for I-924 applications with direct customer access. This sets the table for another layer of bureaucracy that is unlikely to be helpful.
He has proposed an "enhanced decision process" for I-924 applications with an option for in-person or telephonic interview. This sounds nice until you realize that the ISOs don't want it. They treasure their anonymity, huddled in their bunker, lobbing shells at the customers in the form of whacky decisions and the ubiquitous "No, you can't have that visa."
I told Mayorkas that regional centers don't want letters approving "amendments" to their designation letters when they submit an EB-5 investment project for "pre-approval". I said we want a Form I-797 approval notice.
"Can we do that?" Myorkas asked the assembled staff. A high-level employee said probably not because the CLAIMS system, which stands for Computer-Linked Application Information Management, can't spit out the form. Garbage in, garbage out, I guess. You see my points?