12.20.13

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas To be Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security is the leading agency for some of the most pressing issues facing our Nation, from providing disaster relief to protecting our borders.  To serve the American people, this agency needs a full complement of leaders, and that is why I am glad the Senate is considering the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.  I commend Senator Carper, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, for making his nomination to this important position a priority for the Committee and getting his nomination to the Senate.

Alejandro Mayorkas currently serves as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  This is the agency that makes our immigration system work and Director Mayorkas has made it a stronger, better-functioning agency.  His expertise on immigration issues will help him in his new role, where he is sure to improve coordination within the Department. Those Senators who claim to care about protecting our borders and improving our broken immigration system should support this nomination, just as they should call on the House to pass comprehensive immigration reform as we did here in the Senate earlier this year.

It is unfortunate that Director Mayorkas’ nomination has been the subject of unfair and partisan attacks, and it is wrong that some tried to create controversy about Director Mayorkas even before his confirmation hearing occurred in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  The attacks mounted against Director Mayorkas are made even less credible by the conduct of the former DHS Deputy Inspector General, who was forced to resign in the face of allegations of serious misconduct.

On the eve of Director Mayorkas’ confirmation hearing, this former Deputy Inspector General, Charles Edwards, authorized the transmittal of an email to a Republican Senate office that contained sensitive information about an ongoing investigation involving Director Mayorkas.  The timing of its transmittal raised serious questions about the motivation for its disclosure.  Then, the email authorized by the former Deputy Inspector General was published shortly after its transmittal on the website of a Republican candidate for governor of Virginia.  Why would a Virginia gubernatorial candidate care about an investigation being conducted by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security?  Because some of the anonymous allegations repeated in that email by the Office of Inspector General involved claims that Director Mayorkas intervened in an immigration matter for Terry McAuliffe, the governor-elect of Virginia.  What is worse, the former Inspector General had received these anonymous allegations in September of 2012, yet only disclosed them publicly just days before Director Mayorkas was scheduled to appear before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 

Director Mayorkas’s professional integrity further undermines these bogus allegations. Alejandro Mayorkas served as an assistant United States Attorney and as the United States Attorney for Southern California, posts he held during the course of a decade.  Where he has made mistakes, he has taken responsibility.  In my experiences with him while he has served as Director of USCIS, Director Mayorkas has put the interests of USCIS and those it serves at the forefront.  He has made tough decisions to make that agency better—decisions that are sometimes not popular with agency employees but decisions that put the institution first.  He has brought significant resources to bear on the EB-5 Regional Center program, a program that a bipartisan majority of this Senate supported when we passed comprehensive immigration reform in June. While the House has failed to pass this important legislation that includes meaningful improvements to the EB-5 program, Director Mayorkas did not let up on his efforts to ensure the program’s integrity.  He has acted to make sure the agency’s decisions are correct under the controlling law and regulations. The suggestion that Director Mayorkas would risk his reputation and his credibility by improperly intervening in a single immigration case, out of thousands his agency handles every year, is absurd.   

And those who have concerns about the integrity of the EB-5 Regional Center should remember that in May of this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved broad reforms to the EB-5 program during the Committee’s consideration of comprehensive immigration reform.  These reforms, which received praise from the Judiciary Committee’s former ranking member, Senator Sessions, contained a host of improvements recommended by Director Mayorkas and other administration officials to provide strong oversight tools, security enhancements, and anti-fraud provisions.  In June, 68 senators voted in favor of the comprehensive reform bill, of which my EB-5 reforms were a part. Senators on both sides of the aisle who have supported this program know it creates jobs in American communities and is an important and viable source of capital investment for many American entrepreneurs.  Senator Grassley said on the Senate floor earlier this week that we could make reforms to this program “this very day.”  I would respond that the Senate has voted to make them already this year and I was glad to have his support for my strong reforms in the Senate Judiciary Committee.   

Those who say that the Senate should not approve Director Mayorkas’ nomination because a scandal-plagued, and now- resigned Deputy Inspector General sat on allegations made against Director Mayorkas for 10 months before disclosing them in a highly improper way days before Director Mayorkas’ confirmation hearing should carefully consider whether these circumstances merit our faith that the investigation is truly impartial or legitimate.  I have seen no evidence that those Senators who put such faith in the former Deputy Inspector General’s flawed investigation have asked the tough questions necessary to test the integrity of that investigation. Instead of considering the circumstances of the former Deputy Inspector General’s disclosure, and taking the opportunity to ask tough questions of Director Mayorkas at his confirmation hearing, Republican Senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee decided to boycott that hearing.  And when Chairman Carper scheduled a Committee business meeting to vote on Director Mayorkas’ nomination, all Republican senators but two failed to attend that meeting.  This is unfortunate and in my view, an abdication of our responsibility to evaluate the President’s nominees independently.

As senators, we are obligated to ask the tough questions of all nominees, but it is also important that we carefully consider the source and motivations behind any allegations against those nominees.  Regarding the immigration case about which Director Mayorkas is accused of acting improperly, it is clear in emails that he wrote, which have been publicly disclosed, that he asserts his inability to become involved in any specific case.  The emails that have been disclosed paint a picture of an agency director who took great pains to avoid any appearance of favoritism or impropriety.  I would urge my colleagues to review carefully, and in context, that which has been disclosed.  Finally, it is troubling that the individuals who have brought allegations to Republican senators against this nominee would not even agree to meet with Chairman Carper or his staff.  The Senate should consider the reliability of those who have made allegations but are unwilling to let those allegations be fully considered. 

I have every reason to believe that Director Mayorkas will serve the Department of Homeland Security, and the American people, honorably.  I have no doubt about the quality of his character or his integrity as a public official.  And I regret that his nomination has been so needlessly politicized.  Alejandro Mayorkas deserves and up-or-down vote and the support of the United States Senate.

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