1173 words / VTDigger.org
Controversy on Capitol Hill this week shined a national spotlight on one of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s signature economic development initiatives — a program that plays a key role in Vermont’s business strategy.
Monday, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General revealed to a lawmaker an ongoing investigation into Alejandro Mayorkas. The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the No. 2 position at the Department of Homeland Security.
Mayorkas, a tip from an FBI analyst alleged, had helped secure approval for a visa for someone whose application had previously been denied once, then again on appeal. The visa application was filed through the federal Immigrant Investor Program, also called “EB-5” for the type of visa it affords.
Further allegations implicated Mayorkas in mismanagement of the EB-5 program, and extended to other USCIS officials suspected of obstructing a program audit by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a letter to a staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Inspector General’s Office indicated that the preliminary investigation had found no criminal activity, but it also referenced a separate, ongoing audit of the EB-5 program that was in its “final stages.”
Leahy is in the process of pushing Congress to make EB-5 permanent after 20 years in a pilot stage. The program — until Monday — had remained fairly obscure by national standards, despite a recent spike in use. But in Vermont, EB-5 plays a prominent role.