Senator Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) amendment to make significant improvements to the job-creating EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center program was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday during the panel's third day of debate and votes on the comprehensive immigration reform bill. The amendment was filed to the bipartisan immigration reform bill by Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee. The Leahy amendment was approved in a unanimous voice vote.
Leahy has long championed the successful job-creating immigrant visa program that has helped promote economic growth in Vermont and many other states. His amendment ensures the program will be made permanent, and it provides additional improvements to make the program more efficient for investors and regional center operators. The amendment also provides additional anti-fraud and oversight measures.
"This is a significant economic development breakthrough for Vermont," said Leahy. "The EB-5 program has been a powerful job and economic development engine in Vermont. When fully subscribed, this program has the potential to contribute $5 billion to communities around the country each year, creating tens of thousands of American jobs. And all of it is at no cost to American taxpayers."
Vermont's Regional Center -- a national leader in using the federal program -- has been a successful private-public partnership between the State of Vermont and a growing number of Vermont businesses, bringing economic development and job growth to the state since 1997. Two of Vermont's premier ski resorts, Jay Peak and Sugarbush, have successfully used the program to launch major development projects. Other capital investment projects are in the works around the state. Vermont's projects have drawn business and tourism to the state, fueling local economies and creating jobs.
Leahy's amendment is one of several aimed to promote job creation and innovation offered to the nonimmigrant visa provisions in Title IV of the bill. Other bipartisan proposals have also been adopted to boost investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and training; to provide assistance for American workers to apply for jobs in the technology sector; and to establish employee reporting requirements to address potential abuse of the visa system.
Under unprecedented transparency steps launched by Leahy in organizing the markup sessions on the immigration reform bill, all amendments filed to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act can be viewed online. Webcasts of all sessions are available on the Judiciary Committee's website online.