Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On the Nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Thursday, January 28, 2021
The Senate is currently considering the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.
I’m familiar with Mr. Mayorkas from my past oversight of the EB-5 investment visa program.
From 2009 until 2013, Mr. Mayorkas served as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the EB-5 visa program.
During that time, more than 15 whistleblowers approached my office to raise concerns about Mr. Mayorkas and his management of the EB-5 program.
The whistleblowers alleged that Mr. Mayorkas was intervening in routine and technical matters that were not typically handled by the Director.
They also alleged that he was doing so at the request of well-connected Democratic politicians and other politically connected stakeholders.
As my colleagues are aware, I have long criticized the fraud and abuse that are rampant in the EB-5 program, and I have continually reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Leahy to reform the program.
I’ve also conducted consistent oversight of the EB-5 program across presidential administrations, whether they were Democratic and Republican.
So when whistleblowers approached my office with these serious allegations, I was determined to get to the bottom of these matters.
One of the cases in which whistleblowers said Mr. Mayorkas had intervened involved a company with ties to former Secretary Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham.
Mr. Rodham’s company wasn’t happy with the speed with which its applications were being considered by USCIS. So its company representatives made repeated inquiries with DHS and Mr. Mayorkas in an effort to speed things up.
My investigation found that between 2010 and 2013, Mr. Mayorkas had nearly a dozen contacts with that company, including direct communications with its attorneys.
Mr. Mayorkas forwarded requests from the company along to his team, marking at least one of them high priority. He became heavily involved in the process of revising a draft of a technical decision from the USCIS administrative appeals office that was initially unfavorable to the company. In the end, following Mr. Mayorkas’s involvement, the opinion was re-written in a manner that was much more favorable to Mr. Rodham’s company.
In 2013, I wrote Mr. Mayorkas five letters about his management of the EB-5 program. In those letters, I asked him detailed questions in order to get his side of the story. And when he didn’t answer my initial questions, I wrote him repeatedly to follow up.
At this point, it’s been more than seven years, and I still have not received answers to more than 25 specific questions I asked during my 2013 investigation.
Following his nomination to serve as DHS Secretary, I wrote Mr. Mayorkas again on January 15th to raise my concerns and provide him yet another opportunity to answer my questions. He sent me a short response on January 19th that still failed to answer most of them.
It’s very important for nominees confirmed by this body to be responsive to congressional oversight requests. Mr. Mayorkas’s consistent refusal to respond to my questions should concern us all.
Furthermore, we now know that many of the whistleblower allegations made to my office were accurate.
Many whistleblowers who approached my office raised similar concerns with John Roth, the Obama-appointed Inspector General at DHS at the time, who released his office’s report detailing its investigation into these matters in 2015.
In that 2015 report, IG Roth found that “employees’ belief that Mr. Mayorkas favored certain politically powerful EB-5 stakeholders was reasonable.”
The IG also said that the number and variety of witnesses who came forward in his investigation was “highly unusual.”
Allegations didn’t come from one or two disgruntled employees. According to the IG, they came from current and retired career and non-career members of the Senior Executive Service, as well as all levels of supervisors, immigration officers, attorneys, and employees involved in fraud detection and national security.
According to the IG, the fact “[t]hat so many individuals were willing to step forward and tell…what happened [was] evidence of deep resentment about Mr. Mayorkas’s actions related to the EB-5 program.”
The IG also found that Mr. Mayorkas’s actions “created an appearance of favoritism and special access” in some EB-5 adjudication matters and that he “created special processes and revised existing policies in the EB-5 program to accommodate specific parties.”
In addition to the case involving Mr. Rodham’s company, other cases reviewed by the IG involved well-connected Democrats including former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In each of the cases reviewed by the IG where Mr. Mayorkas had intervened, the IG found that “but for Mr. Mayorkas’s intervention, the matter would have been decided differently.”
Witnesses were also fearful, and some only spoke to the IG after being assured anonymity. One whistleblower told my office they were extremely uncomfortable in meetings with Mr. Mayorkas.
Mr. Mayorkas’s actions raised serious concerns in 2013, when he was nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security during President Obama’s second term.
It’s why he couldn’t be confirmed to that role until after then-Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option on nominations.
Not a single Republican senator was willing to support his confirmation then, and no senator should support it now.
Finally, I’m concerned that Mr. Mayorkas did not seem to express any regret for his previous actions during his recent confirmation hearing before the Homeland Security Committee.
Instead, he appeared to take the view that interfering in EB-5 cases on behalf of well-connected politicians and stakeholders was somehow the same as casework help offered to Americans who experienced problems with the international adoption system. It was a baffling comparison.
Every one of us senators knows that when a nominee for a cabinet or subcabinet position comes before our committee, they are always asked questions about responding to our oversight letters and phone calls. Every one of them says yes, but not every one of them keeps their word. I suggest to them if you really want to be honest when you respond to that question you ought to say maybe instead of yes.
I strongly oppose Mr. Mayorkas’s confirmation, and I urge all of my colleagues to reject it as well.
Thank you. I yield the floor.