The man tapped to change into U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary, Cuba-born Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas, would put on many hats working one of many nation’s largest bureaucracies. With some 240,000 workers, the DHS conglomeration created after 9/11 melds counterterrorism intelligence, emergency administration, cybersecurity, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Secret Service. But the deliberate nomination additionally portends far-reaching impacts on all types of authorized and unlawful immigration.
Already, the 61-year-old Mayorkas has proven early interest in an oversight position over U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the company he as soon as headed, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
But regardless of largely laudatory media opinions of a Mayorkas appointment, his public service legacy options serial moral imbroglios, a pointed de-emphasis on immigration fraud and legislation enforcement, and strong-arm administration ways to spike acceptances of immigration and asylum purposes in disregard of eligibility.
While media organizations could have trod frivolously over these hassle spots, a Senate affirmation course of required for a DHS secretary nomination probably will not, a public interest that argues for re-visitation and a extra full image of how Mayorkas could handle this coverage space.
The son of Jewish-Cuban refugees who fled the 1959 communist revolution, Mayorkas served President Bill Clinton as an appointed U.S. legal professional in California from 1998 via 2001, President Barack Obama as head of USCIS from 2009-2013, and as deputy secretary for DHS from 2013-2016, earlier than retiring to a blue-chip legislation agency in Washington, D.C. He served maybe most controversially as head of USCIS, the massive immigration-benefits administration company that oversees asylum approval processes, a fraud detection corps, residency and visa utility processes, the E-Verify and SAVE immigration status-checking methods, and the citizenship naturalization course of.
In their preliminary protection, Politico, the Washington Post, the New York Times, National Public Radio, and different media organizations quoted former associates, colleagues, and Democratic figures praising Mayorkas for his experience and centrist politics. But the exuberant protection largely tokenized multiple ethically questionable moments in Mayorkas’s public service profession courting to his California U.S. legal professional days, leaving an incomplete portrait.
For occasion, in its article concerning the potential Mayorkas nomination, the Washington Post famous that solely “Republicans” are prone to carry up a 2015 DHS Inspector General report that discovered Mayorkas inappropriately helped firms related to strong Democratic Party figures reverse employment visa denials for rich out of the country nationals. The Post didn’t elaborate on its temporary description of the scandal.
However, the general public interest in that matter and others to be described, as well as Mayorkas’s unconventional actions with regard to authorized and unlawful immigration, arguably extends past “Republicans” to everybody in Congress with a vote on the nomination, and to anybody who cares about corruption or how immigration and border safety coverage develops subsequent.
Views on Immigrants and Immigration
Where Mayorkas stands on the core points shouldn’t be laborious to guess, provided that Biden nominated him with a transparent agenda. Biden has promised to reverse most Trump deterrence-focused insurance policies for these prone to incentivize authorized and unlawful immigration. Biden, as an illustration, has promised to finish deportations for his first 100 days, droop development on the southern border wall, reopen the severely abused asylum system to all comers, cut back detentions, and work towards amnesties for the entire illegally current.
As to what place Mayorkas matches on the political spectrum, one inform is that no Republican voted to substantiate him as DHS deputy secretary in 2013. A clue as to what place on the open-borders spectrum to put him is that a few of the biggest fans of a Mayorkas appointment are those that favor the lightest attainable immigration enforcement contact, the most expansive utility of asylum legislation, and the doorway of the biggest quantity of authorized or unlawful immigrants, press reporting and social media show.
Mayorkas was the architect of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) coverage that legalized some 700,000 largely grownup “dreamers” who arrived within the United States illegally as minors. Back in civilian life, what place he related to pro-immigration teams just like the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which celebrated the nomination announcement, Mayorkas continued to talk out in assist of granting amnesty to dreamers.
Emblematic of the partisan divide sure to persist on immigration after a Mayorkas affirmation had been different congratulatory endorsements by migrant advocate teams, similar to a quote reflecting the enjoyment of Janet Murguia, president of UnidosUS (in the beginning the National Council of La Raza), which opposes what it terms “indiscriminate” immigration enforcement. She informed the New York Times that “after four long, dark years” of the Trump administration and “a general contempt for Latinos from the highest office in the land, Mayorkas’s nomination signals a new day for the Department of Homeland Security and for all our country.”
In post-service civilian life, Mayorkas served as a board member for the refugee resettlement company HIAS, which advocates for larger numbers and liberal utility of asylum laws and towards detention. HIAS was amongst many teams that additionally congratulated Mayorkas for the pending appointment.
Mayorkas wasted no time telegraphing which a part of the huge DHS portfolio showing interest him: immigration and asylum.
“When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge,” Mayorkas wrote on Twitter following Biden’s announcement about him. “Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”
Later, he messaged his intention to additional the division’s work to “advance our proud history as a country of welcome.”
While none of those coverage attitudes ought to shock Washington insiders, a file of unconventional previous actions suggests the extent to which the following Mayorkas incarnation could emphasize opening the gates wider somewhat than scrupulously imposing the letter of immigration legislation.
Pressuring Employees to “Get to Yes” on Visas Applications, Forget Fraud
In October 2010, a few yr after Mayorkas’s appointment to go USCIS, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) penned a complaint to then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Its contents, although a decade previous now, increase questions on Mayorkas’s fealty to immigration and asylum legislation enforcement.
The Grassley letter, citing nameless worker allegations, accused the highest USCIS official of laying heavy-handed strain on profession workers to squeeze out larger volumes of immigration utility approvals for the company’s “customers”, whereas undermining fraud and ineligibility detection efforts.
After receiving an “inadequate response” from Mayorkas, Grassley’s workplace interviewed seven workers, examined a whole lot of pages of supporting paperwork, and offered the leads to the letter to Secretary Napolitano.
“Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that Director Mayorkas is fostering an environment that pressures employees to approve as many applications as possible and condones retaliation against those who dissent,” he wrote.
Among the inquiry’s chief findings:
- Mayorkas had change into “visibly agitated” throughout a go to to USCIS’s California workplaces when informed workers there needed to root out fraud. “Why would you be focusing on that instead of approvals?” he seemingly demanded. A witness mentioned “his message was offensive to a lot of officers who are trained to detect fraud.”
- At a administration convention, Mayorkas directed high officers to search out methods at all times to “get to yes” relating to “customer” immigrants who filed visa purposes. He informed his subordinates to “look at petitions from the perspective of the customer” and that the objective was “zero complaints”, implying that approvals had been the means to that finish.
- At a convention in Landsdowne, Va., Mayorkas mentioned there have been some “managers with black spots on their hearts” who cannot see their technique to grant advantages and that he was “dealing” with them and in addition subordinates “too close” to them, with quick involuntary re-assignments.
- The California USCIS workplace was informed to desert an essential anti-fraud measure that checked for high-risk candidates on a authorities database, and fraud specialists needed to cease investigating such purposes.
Perhaps as preemptive strike towards any recollection of Grassley’s 2010 letter, the most recent media reporting concerning the Mayorkas DHS secretary nomination praises his ostensible monitor file of going after immigration fraud.
The Washington Post story allowed an unchallenged quote from John Sandweg, a former appearing ICE director who served with Mayorkas, saying “One of the things Mayorkas was proudest of creating was the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate [FDNS], to emphasize that vetting was crucial in giving out immigration benefits.”
In reality, the FDNS was created as a small unit in 2004 with the creation of USCIS after 9/11 uncovered extreme systemic flaws simply exploited by terrorists. Further, whereas he could have signed an order to improve FDNS from a unit to a directorate, Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviews about rampant asylum fraud and lack of prosecution in the course of the Mayorkas years beg to vary with claims that he was ever all in favour of successfully vetting purposes.
A damning December 2015 GAO report discovered that FDNS asylum fraud prosecutions not often, if ever, occurred in the course of the Mayorkas years. It discovered that half of the eight USCIS discipline divisions had referred both one fraud case to U.S. legal professional’s workplaces from 2010 to 2014 or none in any respect. One workplace reported that not a single referral had been accepted within the prior two years. Another reported that its U.S. legal professional had accepted no asylum fraud referrals since 2010.
Besides strong-arming USCIS workers to “get to yes” as an alternative of legitimate denials or fraud investigations, another excuse for this dismal displaying throughout Mayorka’s 2010-2013 USCIS years was that the very FDNS directorate heralded within the Post story was by no means allowed to refer instances to prosecutors, subpoena witnesses, and even carry weapons.
Under a 2008 memorandum of understanding that Mayorkas would have freshly inherited, the FDNS asylum fraud unit was required at all times to refer fraud instances to ICE Homeland Security Investigations officers, making them subordinate to ICE’s enforcement priorities and restricted assets. In observe, asylum fraud instances needed to compete with many extra attention-getting kinds of instances, similar to human smuggling and trafficking, transnational gangs, and mental property theft. Even had the FDNS officers been allowed to do their very own asylum fraud investigation jobs, there have been solely 34 of the shackled officers by 2015 to cowl eight discipline workplaces nationwide, which processed a whole lot of 1000’s of instances yearly, the GAO report discovered.
Contrary to any effort to pitch him as we speak as an asylum fraud crusader, Mayorkas did little or nothing both to free the FDNS investigators, add to their ranks, or generate extra fraud case referrals.
In his 2010 letter, Grassley requested for paperwork and information that might assist confirm the allegations, however nothing that got here of the request stalled Mayorkas’s fortunes. He served multiple extra years, his standing amongst Democratic leaders serving him well via a much more critical ethics investigation by the DHS Office of Inspector General.
The Inspector General’s Investigation of Mayorkas
The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation centered round Mayorkas’s alleged interference within the already fraud-riddled and abused EB-5 visa program by which rich foreigners can basically obtain U.S. residency and eventual citizenship in the event that they make investments $500,000 (raised since his tenure to $900,000) within the U.S.
The OIG case launched in 2012 on the energy of “an extraordinary number of DHS employees” who got here ahead to report that Mayorkas was offering “special access and special favors” to a handful of EB-5 visa candidates who had been rich out of the country nationwide associates of strong U.S. Democratic figures and office-holders doing the asking.
Many of the traders searching for EB-5 visas had been Chinese nationals hoping to sink hundreds of thousands into:
- Film initiatives with connections to former Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, the mayor of Los Angeles, and Hollywood businessmen in late 2011.
- A resort and on line casino mission in Las Vegas that was being pushed by U.S. Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2013 on behalf of some legislation shoppers of the senator’s son, Rory.
- An industrial funding fund’s proposed hybrid automobile manufacturing unit in Virginia promoted by former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Hillary Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham, from 2011 via 2013.
The OIG concluded that in these three instances Mayorkas “exerted improper influence in the normal processing and adjudication” of the visas, “inserted himself in unprecedented ways” within the adjudication course of, and “intervened with the profession USCIS workers in ways in which clearly benefited the stakeholders.
“In each of these three instances, but for Mr. Mayorkas’s intervention”, the report abstract famous, “the matter would have been decided differently.”
None of the visa candidates would ever consent to OIG interviews, nor had been the investigators ever capable of finding Mayorkas’s emails and inner communications.
Mayorkas has always disputed the findings of improper intervention, saying he took a hands-on approach in instances solely to strengthen this system’s integrity.
Commutation of a Drug Trafficker’s Sentence
A 2001 episode from Mayorkas’s final days as a U.S. legal professional within the central California district has much less to do with immigration, however is applicable in that it speaks to an obvious willingness to bend guidelines for the Democratic Party strong.
Mayorkas allegedly used the load of his workplace and entry to the Clinton White House to request commutation of a convicted drug seller’s federal jail sentence. President Clinton adopted via with the commutation of a 15-year cocaine-trafficking sentence in 1994 for Carlos Vignali, Jr.
The intervention occurred after Vignali’s Los Angeles real-estate developer father, Horacio, rounded up an array of strong Democratic political and civic leaders to strain Mayorkas to assist the trigger, a 2002 congressional investigative report concluded.
Among these the senior Vignali enlisted was another Hillary Clinton brother, Hugh Rodham, who obtained $204,000 to efficiently join White House workers to Vignali’s community of Democratic leaders in Los Angeles.
“U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas provided critical support for the Vignali commutation that was inappropriate, given his position,” the congressional report acknowledged. “Mayorkas, the top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, was asked by Horacio Vignali to call the White House in support of his son’s clemency petition. Mayorkas then called the White House about the Vignali commutation” and later conceded that “his call conveyed support for the Vignali commutation … despite his knowledge that the prosecutors responsible for the Vignali case opposed clemency.”
Perhaps extra troubling, throughout his 2013 Senate listening to, Mayorkas offered lawmakers with an alternate set of details when requested. He testified under oath that the Clinton White House initiated the telephone call, not Mayorkas, and that “I informed them that I did not support the commutation.”
Mayorkas declined interview requests for a 2015 Wall Street Journal story concerning the “conflicting versions” he offered totally different authorities overseers.
A More Complete Portrait
Mayorkas’ whole service needn’t be judged solely by the blemishes on his public service file. His comparatively unmarred three years as DHS’s deputy secretary expanded Mayorkas’s vary of experience past immigration to, as an illustration, cybersecurity and home counterterrorism, his specific interest in funneling safety grants to fight anti-semitism much-praised.
But all indications to this point show that Mayorkas would spend effort and time on his immigration portfolio if confirmed. Integrity and ethics points just like the unrelated Vigliano commutation episode when Mayorkas was a U.S. legal professional nonetheless have to be taken into consideration as a result of they transcend any specific coverage space. The integrity issues and administration ways of Mayorkas’s not-so-distant previous display his problematic susceptibility to bend conference to exterior lobbying. Given the stakes invested in management of such a big and consequential public company as DHS, these all should be correctly recounted and assessed.