By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG – A Virginia state senator has issued a demand for a federal review of what state officials called a “visa-for-sale scheme with potential national-security implications.”
Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Louisa, submitted his request Thursday to the head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which administers the EB-5 private-investment program.
Garrett raised concerns amid media reports that Virginia officials in the-Gov. Tim Kaine’s administration questioned Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s hybrid-car venture. Funding for the business is based in part on a federal program that offers U.S. visas to foreign nationals in exchange for their investment in targeted industries.
“In the wake of Solyndra and dozens of other green-energy boondoggles, it is at least reasonable to question Terry McAuliffe’s judgment,” Garrett told Watchdog. “The decision of Tim Kaine’s VEDP (Virginia Economic Development Partnership) to pass on GreenTech raises additional concerns. Any allegation of a ‘money for visa scheme’ – their words, not mine – should raise grave concerns for Virginia voters.”
Watchdog, along with the Washington Post and National Review, reported this week on “grave doubts” expressed by then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s administration about GreenTech Automotive and its EB-5 fund-raising efforts in 2009.
“I am formally requesting that the appropriate officials within your agency will review this matter and provide an official response as soon as possible,” Garrett, a commonwealth attorney in Virginia, wrote to USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas.
Liz Povar, vice president of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, was quoted in the Post as writing in November 2009: “I maintain serious concerns about the establishment of an EB-5 center in general, and most specifically, based on this company.
“Not only based on (lack of) management expertise, (lack of) market preparation, etc., but also still can’t get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications that we have no way to confirm or discount,” Povar wrote.
McAuliffe was chairman of GreenTech until his retroactive resignation was quietly announced by president/CEO Charles Wang last Friday. The firm has a corporate office in McAuliffe’s hometown of McLean and plans to build a production facility in Mississippi. On Monday, GreenTech filed an $85 million lawsuit against Watchdog.org.
As part of its fund-raising efforts, GreenTech is using the federal EB-5 program, in which foreign nationals invest $500,000 in the company to create U.S. jobs. The investments put would-be immigrants on the path to earning U.S. residency.
The company has never responded to Watchdog.org’s requests for comments. The company has not said how much EB-5 money has been raised or spent.
USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley said Friday morning that he could not comment on Garrett’s letter, but added, “We received it and Director Mayorkas will reply directly to Sen. Garrett.”
State Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, shared Garrett’s questions about McAuliffe’s activities.
“We just can’t figure out what Terry’s rationale is for running (for governor) if he doesn’t have GreenTech. He keeps talking about the created jobs at GreenTech,” Hugo said. “Where are the jobs? They’re obviously not coming to Virginia. Are they coming to Mississippi or coming to China?”
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
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