U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee to be
number two official in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday
faced scrutiny in the Senate over possible involvement in helping a politically
connected company obtain foreign investor visa.
The nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, currently director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, strongly denied giving improper help to Gulf Coast Funds Management, a company run by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother Tony Rodham, calling the allegations "unequivocally false."
"I have never, ever in my career exercised undue influence to influence the outcome of a case," Mayorkas said in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which held a hearing on his nomination.
"I have never based my decisions on who brings a case but rather on the facts and the law."
Mayorkas is reported to be under investigation by the DHS inspector general on the suspicion that he improperly intervened to secure a foreign investor visa for Gulf Coast. The efforts on behalf of Gulf Coast allegedly occurred after the visa application had been denied and an appeal rejected, according to reports.
Reports quoted congressional aides and documents as saying the efforts were aimed at seeking an EB-5 visa for a Chinese investor. The EB-5 visa program permits foreign nationals to enter the United States if they agree to invest 500,000 to 1 million dollars to create U.S. jobs.
The Washington Post reported that DHS inspector general's office launched the inquiry last year following a tip from the FBI. E- mails show that Mayorkas' assistance was sought by Rodham, who runs Gulf Coast Funds Management, which pools money from foreign citizens who want to invest in U.S. businesses as part of the EB-5 program.
Rodham and others in Gulf Coast wrote to Mayorkas and other DHS officials asking for help with delays that they said were harming GreenTech Automotive, a firm co-founded by Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate. Gulf Coast was working on behalf of GreenTech Automotive on the investment.
DHS inspector general's office currently does not have any preliminary findings regarding Mayorkas, and it has found no wrongdoing by Mayorkas as of now.
The White House stood by Mayorkas. In a letter to the committee, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said the administration has no concerns about Mayorkas' suitability for the job, urging the Senate to swiftly confirm him.
The Republicans on the panel tried to get the hearing postponed, as the revelation took them by surprise, and they said it would be neither appropriate nor fair to consider the nomination of an individual under investigation.
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