Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has fixated on China’s increasing economic influence as exemplary of America’s failure to win anymore. He has not, however, thus far mentioned Chinese investors’ involvement in financing a Trump-branded tower in New Jersey being built by his son-in-law.
The promotional video above, part of a marketing campaign for Kushner Companies “Trump Bay Street,” shows a short tour of Jersey City by car, set to the the theme song from The Sopranos, and subtitled in Chinese.
According to Bloomberg Politics, the video was produced to entice Chinese financiers to invest in the development project—a 50-story luxury rental apartment building—under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. A business partner of Trump’s on a golf course in Jupiter, Florida, named Nicholas Mastroianni runs the firm dealing with potential investors, U.S. Immigration Fund. (Jared Kushner, the chief executive officers of the building’s developer, Kushner Companies, is married to Ivanka Trump, Donald’s daughter.)
Trump has railed against some such programs, saying that he wants to “institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program” even as he acknowledges hiring temporary workers at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. However, Trump Bay Street has thus far raised $50 million through loans facilitated by EB-5. According to U.S. Immigration Fund’s general counsel, nearly all of the investors are from China.
“This was a highly successful license deal but he is not a partner in the financing of the development,” a Trump spokeswoman told Bloomberg.
Under the EB-5 program, foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in an American project that promises to create at least 10 jobs can receive a two-year visa. The program has become increasingly popular as a source of capital for real estate developers in New York and California in recent years: Only 346 EB-5 visas were issued in 2005, rising to 3,340 in 2011 and 10,692 in 2014. According to the Atlantic, about 1,200 Chinese millionaires were granted visas in the course of raising money to finance the $20 billion Hudson Yards project alone.
It is, essentially, a way to buy American citizenship. Some, like Senator Diane Feinstein, have called for the program’s reform.
“EB-5 sends a terrible message to the millions of immigrants patiently waiting their turn to enter the United States legally to be reunited with their families or for legitimate employment,” she said in a statement last year, just before the program was renewed. “It says that American citizenship is for sale, and that’s not what our country stands for.”
What is more, a report from the Government Accountability Office around the same time indicated that it was difficult to verify the source of investor’s funds, and that the program was vulnerable to fraud and abuse. From ABC News last February:
In addition to reaching wealthy foreign investors, the program has become a magnet for those seeking to sidestep the scrutiny of the traditional immigration process. In one case, immigration officials pushed through a visa application from Chinese investor in a Las Vegas hotel project despite an internal review that found the investor had previously been turned back at the border, and much of his visa application had likely been fabricated, immigration records show.
A Feb. 1, 2013 Homeland Security internal review obtained by ABC News also lays out in stark detail the breadth of the troubles afflicting some of the roughly 600 so-called regional centers — private sector entities certified by Homeland Security to recruit foreign investors for specific business ventures that will qualify for EB-5 visas. The document summarizes 41 investigations, some open and some now closed, into allegations ranging from espionage to fraud to drug trafficking involving investors in various EB-5 investment projects.
The program was renewed through September 2016 without changes.