The Cable

Homeland Security IG: Department’s No. 2 Violated Ethics in Push for Visas

An internal Homeland Security investigation found that its No. 2 man committed ethics violations when he fast-tracked visas of people with connections to Democrats. But he didn't break the law.


An internal Homeland Security investigation has found the department’s No. 2 official violated ethical principles and “created an appearance of favoritism and special access” when he fast-tracked visas for foreign investors connected to high-profile Democrats. But he did not break any laws.

At issue are visas that are part of the government’s investor-visa program, which grants foreign investors the right to permanently live in the United States with their families if they invest between $500,000 to $1 million in ways that create American jobs.

DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who served on President Barack Obama’s 2008 transition team, was accused by U.S. Customs whistleblowers of pushing through applications connected to Terry McAuliffe, now Virginia’s governor, and Anthony Rodham, the brother of Hillary Clinton. He was also accused of fast-tracking an application for Asian investors in a casino backed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

At a Thursday hearing on the investigation, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the list of involved individuals “reads like an A-list of political powerhouses.”

The findings of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth’s two-year investigation were released March 24. He concluded Mayorkas’ actions influenced decisions on visas in a number of cases — but what he did was legal.

Mayorkas, who served as head of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013, denied wrongdoing but said in a statement “I will certainly learn from it and from this process.” He did not testify at the hearing. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has said he stands behind Mayorkas.

Photo Credit: NBC NewsWire 

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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