Inspector General Report Accuses Homeland Security Official of “Unprecedented” Visa Intervention on Behalf of Harry Reid, Virginia’s Current Governor and Others
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general has accused the department’s former No. 2 official of “unprecedented” interference in a visa program for wealthy foreign investors on behalf of prominent politicians.
Inspector General John Roth said in “an unusually harsh and detailed report,” according to Government Executive, that the former head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and deputy secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, had helped politically connected foreign investors seeking U.S. residency. Those receiving favoritism from Mayorkas included people with ties to Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Terry McAuliffe, now the Democratic governor of Virginia, former Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell and others.
“Staff witnessed Mr. Mayorkas inserting himself in unprecedented ways into an adjudicative process governed by statute, regulation, and USCIS policy. As a result of his deviation from the normal process, applicants and stakeholders with whom he had just been in contact received a specific benefit. Many employees concluded, not unreasonably, that the pressure exerted on them was because the individuals involved were politically connected,” Roth wrote in his report (pdf).
Mayorkas’ actions were targeted at the Employment-Based Fifth Preference program, or EB-5, which gives residency preference to foreign residents willing to invest, depending on location, $500,000 or $1 million in the U.S. economy.
EB-5 is supposed to be “a highly-regulated program to prevent wealthy individuals from subverting immigration laws,” Katherine McIntire Peters wrote at Government Executive.
Reid’s involvement in the controversy stems from his support for the Las Vegas Regional Center. Intervention on behalf of McAuliffe helped his GreenTech Automotive company through the Gulf Coast Funds Management Regional Center. Rendell’s connection came through his work with the L.A. Films Regional Center on a film project.
Roth’s investigation uncovered more than 15 whistleblowers within DHS who had concerns with Mayorkas’ actions—“an unusually large number of witnesses,” according to Government Executive.
“Their allegations were unequivocal: Mr. Mayorkas gave special access and treatment to certain individuals and parties,” the report said. “They told us he created special processes and revised existing policies in the EB-5 program to accommodate specific parties. According to the employees, but for Mr. Mayorkas’ actions, the career staff would have decided these matters differently. Employees felt uncomfortable and pressured to comply with managers’ instructions that appeared to have come from Mr. Mayorkas or those working directly for him. Again, these comments were not from one or even a couple of disgruntled employees with axes to grind; rather, these were individuals throughout the ranks of USCIS, in different locations, engaged in different functions, with different experience levels.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley
To Learn More:
DHS Exec Aided Foreign Investors with Democratic Ties, IG Found (by Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive)
Report: Va. Governor Received Special Treatment from Homeland Security (by Tom Hamburger and Rachel Weiner, Washington Post)
Inquiry Finds Homeland Security Official Intervened in Visa Cases (by Julia Preston and Michael Schmidt, New York Times)
Investigation into Employee Complaints about Management of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' EB-5 Program (Department of Homeland Security, Inspector General) (pdf)
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