Controversial Cabinet-Level Nomination Puts Spotlight on EB-5 Visa

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) January 17, 2014 — A nominee for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputy is still being scrutinized for alleged favoritism in his allocation of visas.

Alejandro Mayorkas, an Obama-administration nominee for a top post with the DHS, has been under the cloud of a federal investigation for months.

But on December 11, 2013, he took an important step forward toward confirmation when Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved his nomination.

Mayorkas, the current director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has been nominated to serve as deputy to Jeh Johnson, the White House’s choice to head the DHS. However, he is also the subject of an investigation launched by the U.S. Inspector General into whether, while USCIS chief, he has improperly used his influence to secure EB-5 visas for a company owned by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s brother.

EB-5 visas are a class of green cards that permit entry into the United States if the applicant makes an investment of $500,000 toward a USCIS-approved regional center or $1 million toward the creation of a new business. The latter means of obtaining legal permanent residency must also result in the creation of 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years of entering the United States. The USCIS grants 10,000 EB-5 visas every year.

Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have raised questions on and objections to Mayorkas’ candidacy since hearings for the DHS position began in July. The GOP has been particularly opposed to holding a vote on Mayorkas while the Inspector General probes his alleged involvement with the allocation of EB-5 visas to favored recipients.

“It is not true to assume that there has been no wrongdoing,” said Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the ranking Republican member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “So that’s why we need an [Inspector General’s] report.”

Democrats have noted that the Inspector General’s process has persisted for 15 months, and they ask why its pace has not been accelerated because of the importance of the investigation and of Mayorkas’ nomination.

The Inspector General’s office has said that the Mayorkas probe may not conclude for several more months.

For his part, Mayorkas testified to the Senate in July that he has “never, ever in my career exercised undue influence to influence the outcome of a case.”

Due to changes in Senate rules that require only a majority vote to end filibusters for Cabinet-level appointees, Mayorkas is expected to win confirmation.

But the stir created over his nomination elicited notable comments on EB-5 visas by his expected boss-to-be. “I understand the EB-5 program has value, but I agree that we should be vigilant in monitoring it from a security standpoint,” wrote Johnson in a letter to Senate Republicans that broadly addressed their concerns on immigration.

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