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DHSGOP lawmakers boycott DHS nominee hearing

Published 29 July 2013

Senate Republicans boycotted a hearing last Thursday to consider President Obama’s nominee for deputy DHS secretary. Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Tom Carper (D-Delaware) refused a request by GOP lawmakers for a delay in the hearing because of concerns about Alejandro Mayorkas, the current head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency. Mayorkas is under DHS IG investigation for authorizing an EB-5 investor visa to a Chinese businessman who was supposed to invest in a green-tech car company founded by Terry McAuliffe, the current Democratic candidate for the Virginia governorship, and represented by Anthony Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s brother. The visa application had been twice denied by USCIS before Mayorkas’s intervention.

Alejandro Mayorkas, resisted nominee for deputy DHS secretary // Source: youtube.com

Senate Republicans boycotted a hearing last Thursday to consider President Obama’s nominee for deputy DHS secretary.

The Washington Post reports that Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Tom Carper (D-Delaware) refused a request by GOP lawmakers for a delay in the hearing because of concerns about Alejandro Mayorkas, the current head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency.

Mayorkas is currently under investigation by the DHS Inspector General after it was alleged that he   had improperly helped a Chinese investor obtain U.S. visas through the EB-5 program, which awards visa, and then a green card, to foreigners investors who invest in U.S. projects and create U.S. jobs. The investor in question was a Chinese businessman represented by Gulf Coast Funds Management, a Virginia-based finance company headed by Hillary Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham.

The initial visa application by the businessman was denied. Rodham’s finance company appealed the decision, but the original denial was upheld on appeal.

Rodham asked Mayorkas to intervene, and Mayorkas, overruling the two earlier rejections of the application, approved the EB-5 visa for the Chinese investor.

The Chinese investor was supposed to invest in GreenTech Automotive, a company co-founded by Terry McAuliffe (McAuliffe severed ties with the company on 1 December 2012). The company, which has several offices in the United States, lists the Chinese company Dongguan MyCar Electric Vehicle Technology Limited as its – GreenTech Automotive’s – Chinese address.

McAuliffe is currently the Democratic candidate for the Virginia governorship. He is a former DNC director, and served as the finance chairman of Clinton’s 2008 primary campaign.

Mayorkas, appearing before the committee, minus its Republican members, said he did not know about the investigation until last Monday.

“I have never ever in my career exercised undue influence to influence the outcome of a case,” he said, adding: “I have never based my decisions on who brings a case but rather on the facts and the law,” Mayorkas added.

Mayorkas told the lawmakers that he met with McAuliffe about two years ago to hear complaints about the pace of visa approvals for foreign investors at GreenTech Automotive. He said such meetings were common and he considered them part of his job.

“I listened to his complaint and went back to my work,” Mayorkas said. “I enforce the law based on the facts. I do not put my finger on the scales of justice.”

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released more than three dozen pages of documents last Wednesday citing problems with the EB-5 program and the role played by Mayorkas.

The Post reports that Grassley said he has learned that other federal agencies have raised national security concerns about program, which is under Mayorkas’s jurisdiction.

Students of Congress expressed surprise that the hearing on the nomination went ahead as scheduled.Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that holding a confirmation hearing for a cabinet-level nominee under an inspector general’s investigation is unusual. “I can’t recall a case where this has happened,” Ornstein said.

The Post notes that despite the concerns, Mayorkas does have supporters.

White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler says the president made the right choice in nominating Mayorkas, saying an FBI background check was conducted on him and came up clean.

“These standard practices were followed with respect to the nomination of Director Mayorkas, and we have no concerns about his suitability for this important position,” Ruemmler told the Post.

Committee chairman Carper, in explaining why he refused the Republican members’ request for a delay in the hearings, said he would not allow “rumor, speculation, and innuendo to rule the day.” Carper added that Mayorkas had never been notified that he was the subject of a probe.

“The Office of Inspector General apparently does not have any ‘preliminary findings’ regarding Mr. Mayorkas,” Carper said in prepared remarks before the hearing. “In fact . . . the Office of Inspector General has found no wrongdoing by Mr. Mayorkas.”

If Mayorkas is confirmed by the Senate, he will most likely run DHS until President Obama finds a replacement for Janet Napolitano.

“I believe it would actually be irresponsible to leave the Department without a permanent Deputy Secretary until the investigation is completed — especially given that, as of September 7th, we will not have in place a Senate-confirmed Secretary to run the Department,” Carper said in his statement.

“I have also taken the opportunity to review Mr. Mayorkas’ FBI file, not once, but twice,” Carper said. “Nothing in my conversations with Mr. Mayorkas or in my review of his FBI file has convinced me that we should not be holding this hearing today.”