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U.S. immigration officials are considering a proposal from Chinese investors to create a multibillion-dollar development in New York’s Catskills called "China City" -- raising concerns among critics about the potential cost to U.S. taxpayers and, according to one analyst, the possibility it could be a "stalking horse" for the Beijing government.
A spokesman from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told FoxNews.com that the proposal for Thompson, N.Y., has not been approved but is under consideration.
The mysterious proposed development appears to be a step beyond the types of ethnic enclaves scattered throughout U.S. cities, like the Chinatown sections of New York City or San Francisco. The 600-acre "China City of America" is located far outside New York City in upstate New York's wetlands and is a meticulously planned project, calling for family housing, a college and student residences, among other structures. In addition to needing federal approval, it would likely need a host of state and local permits before ground could be broken.
If approved, every province in China would have an office there and foreign investors funding the development would receive green cards for their $500,000 checks under the EB-5 program designed to lure foreign investment, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative organization staunchly opposed to the project.
A detailed report authored by David North, a fellow with the Washington-based group, claimed there is "a charge from within the Chinese community that China City is a stalking horse for the Chinese communist government in Beijing." He claimed he was told one group raised objections with the USCIS.
"It's a perfect storm of problems," North told FoxNews.com, citing what he called dubious job creation claims by the promoters as well as national security concerns. North noted that the developers claim 20 percent of the funding would come from U.S. taxpayers, which he said was a "pipe dream."
The China City Regional Center's website, though it includes little English, shows a section referring to federal funding. Under the section titled, "Phase 1 Investment Percentage," the website states, "US government investment total of $ 65 million accounting for 20%."
The site is affiliated with a Florida law firm, which could not be reached for comment.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would not confirm such a funding request in the formal proposal and said Wednesday it does not disclose details of pending applications.
"The [China City] Regional Center is not approved. An application has been filed and it's still pending. A decision has not been made on it yet," Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for USCIS, told FoxNews.com.
"With all cases of a request for an immigrations service or benefit, we rely on the information provided and the law to reach a decision on whether it can or cannot be approved," Bentley said.
Local officials did not respond to requests for comment. But a videotape of a public meeting held in Thompson in May, available on YouTube, addressed the proposal and underscored the controversy surrounding the development. Supporters of the project, in an economically depressed area of Sullivan County, say they believe it would offer both a financial and cultural boon to the region.
"Families who invest in EB-5 program are normally influential and wealthy families from China. A lot of them are successful business owners or enterprisers. Most of those investors are highly educated and skilled in different fields," wrote one poster.
"I believe this is a big projects that can creates thousands of job opportunities," wrote another. "Such a precious opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture and beauty."