President-elect Joe Biden's pick for Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, faced criticism during the Obama administration after a scathing inspector general report found that he intervened to help foreign investors in the EB-5 visa program who were connected to top Democrats.
The EB-5 visa program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), allows foreigners who invest significant money in U.S. business ventures that create jobs for Americans to apply for a green card–or legal permanent residence–in the U.S. Certain family members of the investors may also apply for green cards.
In three EB-5 cases, each involving high-profile Democrats, Mayorkas intervened "outside the normal adjudicatory process" and "in ways that benefited the stakeholders," the report found.
In one case, Mayorkas "pressured staff" to expedite the review of a Las Vegas hotel and casino investment at the request of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to the report.
In another, Mayorkas executed an "unprecedented" intervention to help GTA, a company chaired by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, the report found.
May 11, 2010: Immigration Services Director (USCIS) Alejandro Mayorkas listens to a question on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
And in a third, he ordered USCIS to reverse a decision to deny EB-5 funding for Sony movie projects in Los Angeles after hearing from former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, according to the inspector general.
The cases would have been "decided differently" if not for Mayorkas' intervention, according to the March 2015 report.
"His intervention in these matters created significant resentment in USCIS," the inspector general wrote, saying that the investigation was triggered after complaints from USCIS staff.
Mayorkas appeared before the Republican-led House Homeland Security Committee in 2015 to answer questions after the inspector general report was released.
"The [Department of Homeland Security] Inspector General found that… employees perceived I exercised undue influence in these cases,” Mayorkas told the committee, according to ABC News. “I bear responsibility for the perception of my employees. That is my responsibility and I acknowledge that.”
In a statement after the report's release, Mayorkas said he would "learn from it," but went on to slam the EB-5 as "badly broken when I arrived," claiming that he had to get involved.
"While I disagree with the Inspector General’s report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process. … The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS," Mayorkas said in a statement after the report's release.
"There was erroneous decision-making and insufficient security vetting of cases," Mayorkas said at the time. "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, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes."
The inspector general report did not find any legal wrongdoing and Mayorkas' actions created and preserved American jobs, a Biden transition spokesperson told Fox News.
According to the inspector general report, his "sole motivation" was to "strengthen the integrity of the program," and he had "no interest in whether a particular application or petition was approved."
"The Inspector General’s report paints a clear picture of how Mr. Mayorkas, when Director of the agency, used poor judgment and provided preferential treatment to certain petitioners and regional center applicants in the EB-5 immigrant investor program," Grassley wrote on a 2015 letter to then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. "You have an obligation to ensure there is accountability."
The Homeland Security secretary position requires Senate confirmation.
Fox News' Peter Hasson contributed to this report.