Amid an ongoing investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s office into allegations of misconduct by the nominee for the deputy secretary of the department, Democrats on a Senate panel yesterday voted to send the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to the full Senate for a vote despite no support from Republicans, who want to wait until the investigation is complete.
All nine Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted in favor of Mayorkas while Republicans voted present.
|USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas Photo: USCIS
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking member on the committee, spent more than 30 minutes explaining why a vote by the committee at this time is misguided, and said his confirmation will be “denied” bipartisan support and “will be trailed by a cloud of doubt and disconnect.”
Coburn said the IG is expected to report its findings in February. The allegations that launched the investigation of Mayorkas, who is currently the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) agency within DHS, relate mainly his management of the EB-5 immigrant visa program as well as conflicts of interest, misuse of position, mismanagement, and the appearance of impropriety, he said.
Reports of the IG investigation into Mayorkas’ management of the visa program surfaced immediately before his confirmation hearing in July (Defense Daily, July 26). Mayorkas denied allegations that he had influenced the visa process in an attempt to grant visas for foreigners wanting to invest in an U.S. electric car company that Terry McAuliffe (D), who was recently elected as the next Governor of Virginia, invested in and was its chairman.
Mayorkas was nominated by President Barack Obama in June for the deputy DHS position, which has been vacant for about eight months. Mayorkas has led USCIS for four years.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee chairman, lauded Mayorkas’ government service as a U.S. Attorney and at USCIS where he turned around a “foundering” agency. Carper said that the IG investigation, which began about a year after receiving the allegations against Mayorkas, has gone on for too long, adding that the release of its findings have already been delayed twice.
Carper also said that the IG has never contacted Mayorkas to gather his side of the story and that it confirmed in a conference call earlier this month with his staff that “they have found no evidence of wrongdoing by” DHS or Mayorkas.
Coburn later said that while no evidence of criminal wrongdoing has been uncovered, that doesn’t mean there was no “wrongdoing.”
Carper, summing up his reasons for moving forward with yesterday’s vote on Mayorkas, said that “The reality is the OIG remains months away from completing its work but has found no evidence of criminal misconduct on the part of anyone at DHS. The reality is that the Department of Homeland Security is in dire need of Senate-confirmed leadership. And the reality is the American people want us to stop arguing among ourselves, figure out how to work better together and kick this economic recovery into high gear. My friends, it’s time to move forward.”
More than a dozen key leadership positions at DHS are vacant, including the Secretary. The Senate may vote this month on Obama’s nominee to be Secretary, Jeh Johnson. The House Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing this morning to discuss the impact on mission and morale at DHS the leadership vacancies are having.