In early 2013, a press release for an upcoming luxury high-rise in New Jersey was blasted out to investors more than 6,000 miles away.
Aimed at wealthy Chinese seeking a life in America through the EB-5 visa program — green cards awarded to foreign nationals in exchange for investments in job-creating projects — the release cited Jersey City’s demand for upscale rentals at prices set well below the Manhattan market. Kushner Companies, the developer of the $218 million project later christened Trump Bay Street, would begin construction on the 50-story tower the following year if enough capital was raised.
Translated into English, the pitch in Chinese urged potential immigrant investors to “understand that the company president Charlie Kushner is the son-in-law of the famous New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump!” Charles Kushner is, of course, the father of that son-in-law, Jared Kushner — the property heir who married President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and now serves as a senior White House adviser. But that mix-up mattered little, and the Trump-branded project, which held its grand opening in November 2016, raised $50 million from EB-5 investors alone.
The federal program is now at a crossroads (again). A growing number of investigations and lawsuits focused on fraud has rocked the EB-5 market, and some lawmakers in Washington feel increasingly skeptical that money flown in from overseas is properly vetted before it reaches developers’ pockets.