Miami investment conference cancels DeSantis speech on ‘anti-immigrant’ views

TALLAHASSEE — A conference of immigration attorneys and wealth management firms that work with international investors and property developers has rescinded its invitation to Governor Ron DeSantis to be the keynote speaker at its conference in Miami next month after some participants and sponsors opposed his immigration policies.

“I was seriously considering your kind invitation until I learned that you have decided to ask Ron DeSantis to be the keynote speaker for the conference,” wrote Ira Kurzban, a prominent immigration lawyer from Miami, in an email to conference hosts, EB-5 Investors Magazine. Kurzban shared his email with the Miami Herald.

‘Mr. DeSantis, also known as Mini-Me for his Trump-like tactics, has engaged in the most vocal anti-immigrant conduct we have ever seen from a public official in this state’ ‘, he wrote.

The governor’s office said late Thursday that its external affairs office had no record of the event and referred questions to the governor’s re-election campaign, which may have handled the programming. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment. EB-5 Investors Magazine also did not respond to a request for comment.

Kurzban, the former national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, detailed his objections to DeSantis: the governor’s support for lawsuits to reinstate the Trump administration’s immigration policy of returning arrestees to the border in detention centers in Mexico, his use of taxpayers’ money to send the Florida National Guard to the Texas border, his support for legislation blocking the transport of undocumented immigrants into the state, and his order ordering state law enforcement to arrest any undocumented person who is released in Florida.

Kurzban, who is nationally recognized for his work on immigration and whose “Immigration Law Sourcebook” is known as a resource in the legal community, was invited to be a panelist at EB-5 & Global Immigration Expo 2022, scheduled for April 7-8 in Miami.

The event is billed as an educational gathering for global professionals who work with “high-net-worth individuals, tax and immigration attorneys, migration agents, and project developers,” and it promoted the Republican Governor of Florida to as the lunchtime keynote speaker, followed by a VIP panel discussion. with him.

But Kurzban warned that the governor could draw protesters to the conference and urged organizers to “dissociate themselves from this aberrant politician”.

Others also reacted negatively to DeSantis

His email then prompted several conference sponsors and panelists to raise their own objections to the governor’s appearance and others also urged conference sponsors to rescind the invitation.

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“We are both sponsors and speakers. If we had known you would be inviting DeSantis as your keynote speaker, we would have missed this event,’ Mona Shah, a New York-based attorney, wrote in an email Wednesday. “Even now I’m considering pulling out of the event. EB-5 is about welcoming immigrants and inviting this man as a keynote just sends the wrong message.

Marie Ekberg Padilla, editor and vice president of operations for EB-5 Investors Magazine, responded quickly.

“As a bipartisan organization, the keynote was simply chosen as the highest number in the state of our event, and we have historically had keynote addresses from both sides of the aisle,” she wrote in the email to Kurzban and others. “With that, a decision was made to reconsider DeSantis. He won’t be joining our event in Miami.

Early Thursday morning, organizers sent an email to conference attendees that read, “Announcement: Governor DeSantis has been canceled for Miami.”

Organizers instead focused on its lineup of “moderated panels, a top 25 lunch, networking opportunities, and an event cocktail!”

According to the annual conference agenda, the event included a discussion of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, a federal program that allows investors and their immediate family members to receive permanent green cards and relocate to United States if their qualifying investment creates at least 10 new jobs in the United States.

EB-5 immigration highlighted

The EB-5 program is part of the US Immigration and Nationality Act and was launched in 1990 by Congress to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. In 1992, Congress also created the Regional Centers Program, which reserves EB-5 visas for participants who invest in qualified business ventures.

Across Florida, these real estate projects have included hotels, luxury condominiums, residential developments, charter schools and restaurants from Miami to Sarasota and St. Petersburg. Investors include high net worth individuals from “China, India, Vietnam and every other country in the world,” Kurzban said.

“After 2008, when it was difficult to get loans, the program skyrocketed and became a permanent fixture – largely driven by Chinese investors and their agents,” he said.

Between June 2021 and March 15 of this year, the program expired as Congress worked on a bipartisan package of reforms to the program.

The E-B5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 was sponsored by American senses Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, to address concerns about fraud, who owns regional centers and other issues, Kurzban said. “It clarified a lot of the concerns they had about how the program was being run.”

Those changes should be the focus of the conference, which traditionally attracts a bipartisan group of panelists and attendees, he said.

Shah said in an interview that an email chain with several of the conference’s sponsors was filled with angry messages from “people very upset” by DeSantis’ selection to the conference because he is seen as “anti- immigrant”.

“We tend to deal with people who have higher net worth and who bring in significant investments,” she said. “If these lawyers, who tend to be more right wing, are talking that way, that means something.”

Some Republican lawmakers who have defended the governor said they supported DeSantis’ approach to immigration because it was “common sense.”

“We want to live in communities that are safe and free from drugs, gangs and crime. We look to our politicians to protect us from the cartels, drugs and violence we have escaped,” Miami Republican Rep. David Borrero wrote in an op-ed in the Miami Herald. “DeSantis represents us and ensures that Central and South American traffickers, coyotes and cartels cannot smuggle children and drugs into our communities.”

Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.