17 May Lobbying for EB-5 with Hunter Bates & Hans Rickhoff of Akin Gump – Episode 60
Lobby groups have spent the last several years working to pass a long-term EB-5 reform and reauthorization package. Today, Mark and Mona are joined by Hunter Bates and Hans Rickhoff of Akin Group to discuss the EB-5 lobbying groups active on Capitol Hill. They cover key congressional players in the space, the challenge of reaching a consensus between urban and rural interests, and the impact of the current administration’s overall immigration policy.
On two occasions, the EB-5 industry has gotten very close to passing a long-term reform package, yet we continue to fall short despite the efforts of lobbying groups representing Regional Centers, EB-5 trade associations and coalitions. The challenge lies in establishing a consensus between rural and urban interests and competing with other immigration policy issues like DACA and the border wall.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is an international law firm with 20 offices worldwide. Known for its lobbying presence in DC, Akin Gump is among the most prestigious firms in the US. Hunter Bates is a partner with the firm, and he has 20-plus years of law, policy and advocacy experience, having served as legal counsel and chief-of-staff to current Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Hans Rickhoff serves as Senior Counsel with Akin Gump, and he is a top lobbyist at the firm. Hans advises foreign sovereigns on US foreign policy matters and counsels clients in understanding the US federal agency decision-making process.
Today, Hunter and Hans join Mona and Mark to discuss the EB-5 lobbying groups working toward long-term reform and reauthorization. They describe congressional understanding the program, highlighting the key players in the House and Senate as well as the ebb and flow of interest in EB-5 overall. Hunter and Hans speak to the challenge of reaching a consensus between urban and rural interests, and they address how following through on proposed USCIS regulations might facilitate a resolution. Listen in to understand how the current administration’s anti-immigrant sentiment impacts EB-5 legislation and the likelihood of additional visas being awarded to the program.
EB-5 Lobbying Groups
- Lobbying is a basic right set forth by the Constitution, but you should understand the process, the players and the policy before taking advantage of the privilege. In addition, you must register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and file the required quarterly reports.
- Several Regional Centers have hired their own lobbying firms, and many EB-5 trade associations and coalitions are represented as well. In all, there are about eight lobbying groups engaged in trying to pass a long-term reauthorization package.
Key Congressional Players
- The congresspersons with a great deal of expertise in the realm of EB-5 include those on the two committees of jurisdiction, the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leaders in the House and Senate whose constituents have a vested interest in the program include Pat Leahy of Vermont, Chuck Schumer of New York, and John Cornyn of Texas.
- Interest in EB-5 among congresspersons ebbs and flows, getting the most attention when a sunset of the program is approaching. Media attention around immigration also inspires concern around EB-5.
Urban vs. Rural Interests
- The Gordian knot of EB-5 lies in establishing a consensus between rural and urban interests. For this reason, trade association lobbies like IIUSA resonate with Congress because they represent both groups. (Individual congresspersons are most interested in hearing from constituents in their own districts, so reach out to your senator or representative as a first step in getting your voice heard.)
- The EB-5 industry has gotten very close to passing a long-term reform package, but we have been unable to ‘cross the goal line.’ Either the industry will have to come together with a consensus position both rural and urban players can live with, or USCIS will have to follow through with its proposed regulations—which would resolve one of the most difficult issues (investment levels) and create an opening to pass a long-term reauthorization package.
The Current Administration
- The strong views on immigration expressed by the current administration have resulted in a focus on hot-button debates like DACA and the funding of the border wall. This means that EB-5 reform is often deprioritized while Congress deals with other issues.
- The current administration is paying close attention to congressional interest in EB-5, including the proposed legislation to end the program in the Senate as well as the House. Though termination of EB-5 is unlikely, such legislation sends a unique message.
- No draft language for EB-5 reform includes any mention of additional visas. Based on the current sentiment in DC around immigration, it is unlikely that the overall total number of visas will be increased; however, there is a chance that visas could be reallocated from other pools and transferred to EB-5.