The Associated Press headline and lede are ominous:
Homeland Security Official Probed
President Obama's choice to be the No. 2 official at the Homeland Security Department [Alejandro Mayorkas] is under investigation for his role in helping a company secure an international investor visa for a Chinese executive, The Associated Press has learned.
All this is perfectly true — and the international investor program (EB-5) is a continuing disgrace, a congressionally created way for aliens to buy legal status in the United States with as little as half a million dollars for a batch of visas for the whole family. Mayorkas runs the program and it is possible that the investigation will complicate his life. The investigation is by the DHS Inspector General's Office.
But there is rather more to the story than that.
Whatever the facts in the EB-5 case, and I will return to them, there is also a continuing conflict between two DHS executives.
There is Mayorkas, on the way up in the world. In the Clinton administration he was the youngest U.S. Attorney in America, in southern California. He is Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a political appointee in an assistant secretary-level position, who is President Obama's choice to succeed the recently resigned Jane Holl Lute as Deputy Secretary of DHS.
Since the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, is on her way out of town to take on the troubled job of president of the multi-campus University of California and there is no deputy in place, Mayorkas might very well be running the whole department on an interim basis while the secretary's office is vacant.
The other main player, not mentioned by name in the AP story I read is Charles K. Edwards, the acting inspector general of the department, a civil servant. He is on a downward path and Mayorkas is no friend of his.
Edwards, frankly, has a mixed record. On one hand, he led the IG's office when it issued a scathing report on the tendency of USCIS, under Mayorkas, to stretch toward "yes" decisions on questionable immigration applications as described in this CIS blog. I found his report both commendable and gutsy.
On the other hand, as this CNN report indicates, Edwards has been accused of nepotism for hiring his own wife to work at the IG's office, for having his staff write his PhD dissertation for him, and for using federal travel funds to attend the PhD classes while claiming to be visiting IG field offices.
There is an ongoing Senate committee investigation of these matters.
As CNN did not report, Edwards was (and may still be) seeking a PhD in information management from an academic program at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, which had such a low ranking in the US News and World Report survey of educational institutions that the score was not published.
Were Mayorkas to become DHS Deputy, I suspect Edwards' days would be numbered on the fingers of one hand.
Returning to the substantive issue at hand, it should be kept in mind is that the Obama administration is (mistakenly, I feel) very supportive of the general idea of "helping a company to secure an international investor visa for a Chinese executive".
This is in the controversial EB-5 (employment-based, fifth class) program in which investors with nothing else to offer but half a million dollars can buy a set of visas if they make the investment through the right, DHS-approved channels. Mayorkas has been a cheerleader for the program and has made substantive changes in the decision making process to make it easier for investors, generally, to get their visas. And the vast majority of the investors are Chinese, presumably Chinese executives.
In the instant case he is accused of intervening in the decision making process regarding a case that involves one of Hillary Rodham Clinton's brothers, Anthony Rodham, in a middleman role.
I have no way of knowing whether Mayorkas did anything in this connection, or whether what he did was inappropriate or not (most of the operations of the program are shielded from the public).
I just know the whole program smells of unseemly favors for the rich, in this case, the alien rich. There is no suggestion that Mayorkas got, or sought, a dime for anything he did.
So we have a case of one official being charged with policy sleaze, by another who is charged with personal sleaze.
One hopes that now that EB-5 is in the sights of the AP that there will be much more coverage of this grim, often corrupt little program, which we explored at some length in a CIS Backgrounder.