Mayorkas Has Easy Confirmation Hearing — The GOP Boycotts It

By David North on July 26, 2013

Alejandro Mayorkas, the USCIS Director who has been nominated to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, had an easy confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee Thursday — but only because the Republican senators boycotted it.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking minority member of the committee, had called for the postponement of the hearing until an ongoing investigation of Mayorkas by the Acting Inspector General of DHS could be completed. For more on that investigation, which has some of the marks of a blood feud between the two DHS executives, see my earlier blog.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee chair, arguing that the hearing was needed to head off a leadership vacuum at the department, went ahead with it anyway. (DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano leaves the agency in early September to become president of the University California, and Deputy Secretary Mary Holl Lute left her post in April.)

Coburn then said he would not attend the hearing as a form of protest, as the AP reported, and no other Republican showed up for the session. So the expected fireworks, based in part on the Acting IG's investigation, were only hinted at by a coterie of Democratic senators.

See here for the written opening statement of the chair, and that of the missing ranking member.

The Acting IG of DHS, Charles Edwards, was not mentioned by name at the hearing, nor were the charges against him, though Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) alluded briefly to the IG's office as a "troubled" one. Mayorkas said that he did not know until Monday night of this week that he was under investigation by Edwards and said he would look forward to a meeting with the IG.

What several of the Democratic senators, such as McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), tried to do was to get Mayorkas to tell the committee what the IG's charges were, and then rebut them. He did not do so; he talked about his own career in law enforcement (he was the U.S. Attorney for Central California during the Clinton administration), his Cuban emigre parents and their integrity, and his own integrity.

The chairman, near the end of the meeting, finally got Mayorkas to speak a little about the substance of the charges, notably that he had intervened in the administration of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program in a way that had benefitted Terry McAuliffe, then CEO of a start-up electric car firm called GreenTech, and now (not mentioned at the hearing) the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia.

Mayorkas, under a bit of pressure from the seemingly gentle chair, said that he had had one meeting with McAuliffe "about two years ago", had heard his complaints, but had done nothing about them. The GreenTech people "were unhappy with us in 2011 and in 2012 and are still unhappy with us," he said.

GreenTech had sought investment capital via the EB-5 program from a USCIS-recognized regional center, Gulf Coast Funds Management, headed by Anthony Rodham, Hillary Clinton's brother. It was not clear from the hearing whether GreenTech had been secured any funding in this way.

The chairman used part of the meeting to get some basic information about the EB-5 program; "Can you give us a little EB-5 101?" he asked Mayorkas, the only witness.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a critic of the immigration policy of the administration generally, and of Mayorkas, specifically, has released a collection of documents on USCIS and the EB-5 program. It is an interesting, mixed bag, including some senatorial letters to Mayorkas and others asking a series of pointed questions, as well as partially redacted government memoranda on the EB-5 program. The full set can be seen here.

I have not had a chance to read them all, but I found one item of special interest. Someone in the FBI (whose name was blacked out) apparently found out that bureau was about to move into a building at least partially funded by Chinese investors via the EB-5 program, and was, understandably, alarmed.

One of Grassley's charges was that the EB-5 program had been operated with little regard to national security interests.