WASHINGTON - The No. 2 official at the Homeland Security Department improperly intervened on behalf of foreign investors seeking U.S. visas in three cases involving prominent Democrats, including a company run by the youngest brother of likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, the agency's inspector general said Tuesday.
Investigators said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas helped efforts to secure the visas in ways that created the appearance of favoritism and special access and caused resentment among career government employees, managers and lawyers.
The agency's inspector general, John Roth, said he could not suggest a motive for Mayorkas, a longtime Democrat who served on President Obama's transition team after his 2008 election and was U.S. attorney in California under President Bill Clinton. Roth did not accuse Mayorkas of violating any laws and acknowledged that Mayorkas sometimes declined to become involved in cases because he said he did not think it would be appropriate.
Mayorkas, who at the time was head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in a statement that he disagreed with the inspector general's findings but that "I will certainly learn from it and from this process."
Mayorkas added: "There was erroneous decision-making and insufficient security vetting of cases. I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner."
The government's investor-visa program, known as EB-5, allows foreigners to obtain visas to live permanently in the U.S. with their spouse and children if they invest $500,000 to $1 million in projects or businesses that create jobs for American citizens. Approved investors can become legal permanent residents after two years.