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I-924, clearly demonstrating how a regional center will promote
growth and job creation in a specific area of the United States,
and providing verifiable detail of how the center will create jobs.
Because the Form I-924 projects can be “hypothetical” projects
with just general proposals and predictions, the number of designated regional centers has grown to nearly 450 from 20 since
2007. Not only has the number of regional centers exploded,
but also interest in the program. USCIS reported that the number of applications being submitted through regional centers
has more than quadrupled from 2009 to 2012.
Despite attempts to strengthen the program and protect against
its misuse, some actors still try to abuse the program for personal
gain. The recent Chicago case reverberated throughout the industry
and recalled early scandals. The SEC cracked down on A Chicago
Convention Center, announcing charges in February 2013, for
misleading investors, falsifying documents, and pocketing investments.10 The case demonstrates the program’s vulnerability, but
also the SEC’s and USCIS’s focus on oversight, regulation and
security. Though the scandal had a chilling effect on the industry,
and has made investors more cautious, the regional center program
continues to develop and nurture success stories.
Because many of the early setbacks stemmed from unclear regulations, stakeholders in the industry have pushed USCIS to issue clear guidelines on the program. In what may be the most illuminating policy release to date, USCIS clarified their position
on key aspects of the EB-5 program in their EB-5 Adjudications
Policy Memorandum issued on May 30, 2013.11 While a number
of the stipulations applied directly to regional centers, the general clarity offered by the May memo has allowed regional centers to operate with more realistic expectations and consistency.
Steady success and growth over the past decade has not protected the EB-5 program from political attacks. Senator Chuck
Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, has reservations regarding the EB-5 program, particularly in light of former USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas’s
nomination and subsequent confirmation to a high-level position at the Department of Homeland Security. Furthermore,
the Office of the Inspector General, an arm of the Department
of Homeland Security, recently released a report on their audit of the EB-5 program, concluding that USCIS was incapable of appropriately administering the regional center program.
The report was criticized for ignoring key reforms that USCIS
had made in recent years to strengthen the program and increase security. Nonetheless, the report issued four recommendations that included updating regulations to give USCIS the
authority to terminate regional center status, establishing interagency cooperation, measuring the economic effects of the program, and establishing quality assurance checks (for further discussion on this report see The Tug of War Between the Hill and
the Agency on page 22).
the program, especially in light of the comprehensive immigration reform debate. Some of their suggestions include regulating
the gerrymandering of TEAs,12 increasing the minimum required
investment each year according to the Consumer Price Index,13
and hastening USCIS’s adjudication process. One of the biggest
frustrations for regional center operators and investors is lengthy
USCIS processing times; developers are often paralyzed and
forced to sit on funds in escrow until investors’ petitions are adjudicated. It is hoped that in streamlining the adjudication process, clarifying regulations, and disseminating information about
the program, USCIS can handle the applications more quickly.
Though the regional center program has grown over the