Tampa City Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin has researched how other U.S. cities are working on/have already created EB-5 regional centers. On Thursday, Sept. 6, she proposed that the council create a task force to study the idea of Tampa implementing a regional center.
But the concept is controversial, as some people think the idea of foreigners "buying" their way into the U.S. is distasteful.
Include City Council Chair Charlie Miranda in that category. After a series of local and regional speakers discussed the topic (including Mikki Canton, who is working with Miami's Mayor on their public/private EB-5 program), Miranda said that a green card is the "envy of the world," adding that "people are dying crossing great lengths of water to come here."
But Canton informed Miranda and the rest of the council that there is a specific quota of 10,000 visas distributed annually through the EB-5 program, with only 3,000 going to those working at an EB regional center.
"This has nothing to do with people waiting in line," she said.
Appearing miffed, Capin suggested that if Miranda had read the op-ed he would know that the program didn't allow those applicants from leaping ahead of others who were patiently waiting to become permanent U.S. residents.
She then went off on a passionate defense of her goal and said, "We should be proactive rather than hope to be discovered." Reacting to Miranda's comment that even if the council were to endorse the EB-5 Regional Center Program, the Buckhorn administration might "sit on it" for the duration of the mayor's term. Capin said, "shame on the administration," if that's the case
Referring to her proposal to create a domestic partnership registry in the city earlier this year (an idea that spurred St. Petersburg and Gulport to follow suit), Capin said she wanted to do more than just sit on the council and "look at zoning ordinance after zoning ordinance and not do anything." She said the EB-5 plan was a useful tool to help the city's economic development.
Other council members supported the idea of creating a task force to study the issue (with the group presenting a report back to the council in January), but Councilman Frank Reddick had a problem with the fact that the resolution called for the task force to be composed without council input.
This led to a revamp of the proposal.
In a compromise, the council voted to bring in Bill Flynn, a Tampa immigration lawyer who has worked on EB-5 deals. Flynn is scheduled to appear before the board on Sept. 27 with his ideal list of who should be on that task force.
A few members of the Tampa business establishment, including Rick Homan, the president and CEO at Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, and Ron Rotella from the Westshore Business Alliance, spoke up in favor of the concept.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service has approved more than 200 regional centers in the nation.