DonkeyHotey / Flickr kushner caricature...
DonkeyHotey / Flickr

Jared Kushner may be up to his twig-thin neck in the Russia investigation, but that hasn’t stopped him or the other members of the Kushner Companies from turning the Trump White House into a shovel for digging up cash in other countries. In May, Kushner’s family was caught using his name as part of a program for selling U.S. visas at $500,000 a pop.

The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later in case visa rules change under the Trump administration. “Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules,” one speaker said.

The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

The program for bringing investors into the U.S. already existed, but the Kushners were capitalizing on two things: Jared’s close connection to Trump, and the fear that the Trump campaign itself had generated. They didn’t stop short of spelling it out—Donald Trump may slam shut the gate, so if you want to be sure of getting in, then buy your way in through Kushner Companies.

Far from being shut down, the scheme is still going on, and Jared Kushner is more deeply involved than ever.

Jared Kushner’s status as a top aide to President Donald Trump was used to lure Chinese investors to his family’s New Jersey development, even after his family’s company apologized for mentioning his name during a sales pitch in May, CNN has found.

Kushner is selling entry into the United States for people that invest in his buildings. And it’s working.

References to Kushner are part of online promotions by two businesses that are working with Kushner Companies to find Chinese investors willing to invest in the 1 Journal Square development in exchange for a US visa. …

The promotions are aimed at bringing in investors who pay at least $500,000 apiece and in exchange get US visas, and potentially green cards, for themselves and their families if the development meets certain criteria. The deals are part of a legal US government program called EB-5, which grants up to 10,000 immigrant visas per year.

That program, in turn, is part of the extremely loose set of regulations intended to funnel foreign investments into real estate development. That’s great for developers, but often not so great for home buyers in the U.S. who find that their competition extends far beyond families in the same neighborhood. Real estate developers have often used the program to develop luxury properties, especially when analysis leads U.S. banks to believe those properties aren’t a good fit for the markets where they’re being built.

The original intent of the EB-5 visa program was to promote investments into poor neighborhoods. But, like so many other loopholes, ultra-wealthy developers have hijacked the program to build gold-plated palaces.

A block south of Central Park in Manhattan, construction crews are working on the base of what is poised to be the tallest apartment building in the country and the latest condominium tower to cater to the super rich.

It is also poised to be the latest skyscraper to benefit from a provision of a federal immigration program meant to aid distressed neighborhoods and rural areas, offering a striking example of what lawmakers and critics have called a widespread abuse of the program known as EB-5.

That tower off Central Park is being built by Extell Development, another of the large New York development firms. But it’s a prime example of how EB-5 visas have come to be a benefit to developers like Trump and Kushner—and turned into a weapon against the people they were designed to help.

Kushner’s 1 Journal Square development in Jersey City is currently wrangling with local authorities who have pulled away from providing the 30-year tax abatement that Jared and Company want. That fight has put the $821 million tower in jeopardy. But it hasn’t stopped Kushner’s firm from peddling the building in China.

A former White House ethics expert tells CNN the EB-5 program already raises a potential government-backed quid pro quo — favorable immigration status in exchange for investment dollars. And he says any use of the President’s son-in-law as a marketing tool is ethically unacceptable.

To which you can expect Trump’s team to respond as they have to every other ethical issue: So what?

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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