The Mayorkas Controversy Redux

By W.D. Reasoner on July 26, 2013

In a blog on July 23, Center fellow David North wrote of the controversy surrounding Alejandro Mayorkas, presently the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and nominee to be number two in USCIS's mother department, Homeland Security (DHS). The investigation is based in part on allegations that Mayorkas helped a company run by Anthony Rodham, Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother, to obtain approval for an investor visa on behalf of a Chinese national by overriding denial of the application, and rejection of the appeal, by subordinates.

With a vacuum in both the number one and number two positions in DHS, the Obama administration needs someone to shepherd the department through the remainder of the second term, but wanted to stir no pots — especially while waiting to see where immigration reform is going in the Congress — and so putting forward a solid supporter who's already been through the advise-and-consent process to obtain his incumbent position probably seemed politically astute to the White House when they made the decision to nominate him. But the move appears to be backfiring because of the controversy.

In an unrelated blog I wrote for the Center the day following Mr. North's (one relating to the national security provisions contained in the House of Representatives' pending immigration bill, the SAFE Act), I said, "The SAFE Act will not, of course, change the fundamental indifference exhibited by current DHS leaders where the nexus of immigration and homeland security is concerned. No legislation, in and of itself, can do that."

Mr. Mayorkas, through his actions in the case at the bottom of the ongoing controversy, has exemplified exactly that indifference. According to a Detroit News online article, the DHS Inspector General's Office "initially starting [sic] investigating the EB-5 visa program last year based on a referral from an FBI analyst in the counter intelligence unit in Washington [emphasis added]."

The article quotes an unnamed FBI official as stating, "Let's just say that we have a significant issue that my higher ups are really concerned about and this may be addressed way above my pay grade," and goes on to speak in great detail about the concerns of the FBI, the State Department, and other officials that the investor visa program has been thoroughly penetrated by Chinese government proxies who are extensively coached in how to mask their government's involvement.

To my way of thinking, the question is not whether Mr. Mayorkas should be promoted. The question is whether he's fit to keep his job. He is the leader of a major government organization involved in the sensitive business of granting or denying immigration benefits, including to those who would harm our country or, through intelligence activities, actively work against it. It is his responsibility to keep up with, and understand, what those threats are. That is why USCIS is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, which proclaims on its website, "The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face."

Mr. Mayorkas is also a former United States Attorney whose job was to prosecute individuals for committing fraud and espionage crimes against our country. Claiming that he did not know of the FBI's interest and concern (if that becomes his defense) is no excuse. He knew his own adjudicators and appellate examiners thought the application worth denying. And he knew — had to know — that it involved Chinese nationals.

If he acted in naivete, he is guilty of stupidity and deserves to be cashiered for that alone. But, let's be direct here: He allegedly helped the brother-in-law of the man who made him a U.S. Attorney in the first place. And that, as Mr. North observed, smacks of policy sleaze, with a heavy dose of cronyism and political IOUs thrown in.