A picture of Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Patrick L.
Democrat VT

About Sen. Patrick
  • Executive Session

    by Senator Patrick J. Leahy

    Posted on 2013-12-20

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    LEAHY. I thank my friend from Delaware. You know, the Department of Homeland Security is the leading agency for many of the pressing issues facing our Nation, from providing disaster relief to protecting our borders. The agency needs a full complement of leaders. That is why I am glad the Senate is considering the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.

    I want to thank the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Carper, for pushing forward with this nomination. Alejandro Mayorkas currently serves as the Director of USCIS, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that makes the immigration system work.

    Director Mayorkas has made it, by every analysis, a stronger and better functioning agency. It is unfortunate that in these partisan times Director Mayorkas' nomination has been the subject of unfair and partisan attacks. It is wrong that some have tried to create controversy about him even before his confirmation hearing occurred in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

    The attacks were 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, a person who frankly has no credibility in my mind because of the egregious and inexcusable things he did while serving in this role.

    This former deputy inspector general, Charles Edwards, on the eve of Director Mayorkas' confirmation hearing authorized the transmittal of an email to a Republican Senate office that contained sensitive information about an ongoing investigation involving Director Mayorkas.

    One thing that both Republicans and Democrats should agree upon is that this conduct is wrong. I believe it is a clear violation of the law. It is something that should be condemned no matter who did it. Of course, the timing of the transmittal raised serious questions about the motivation for its disclosure.

    Inspectors general are supposed to be way above politics. Well, guess what happened? The email authorized by this former and now disgraced deputy inspector general was published shortly after its transmittal on the Web site of a Republican candidate for Governor. Come on. This is wrong. Why would a Virginia gubernatorial candidate care about an investigation being conducted by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security? Well, 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. It was obvious this was done for political motives, not to make Homeland Security a better department.

    Director Mayorkas, to his credit, has always put the interests of USCIS ahead of his own. He has made tough decisions to make that agency better. Sometimes tough decisions are not popular but needed. He made the decisions that were best for the country. He has brought significant resources to bear in the EB-5 Regional Center program.

    Incidentally, the recommendations that he made to improve the EB-5 program were in a bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee on comprehensive immigration reform, a bill that passed the Senate in June. Every single Republican, and every single Democrat, voted for those recommendations in the committee. Now, we have been waiting for the House to pass this important legislation. But in the meantime, Director Mayorkas has worked 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.

    I remember during the consideration of comprehensive immigration reform in the Judiciary Committee--the former ranking member, Senator Sessions, praised my amendment to improve the EB-5 program following the recommendations of Director Mayorkas. These reforms contained a host of improvements to provide USCIS with strong oversight tools, security enhancements, and anti-fraud provisions. In fact, 68 Senators, Republicans and Democrats, voted for the comprehensive reform bill which had the EB-5 program improvements in it. Now, some have said here on the floor yesterday that we could make reforms to the EB-5 program this very day.

    I would respond that the Senate voted for it earlier this year. I appreciate those Senators who want these EB-5 reforms for having voted for them back in June. 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 disgraced 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 instead 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.

    [[Page S9073]] This is unfortunate and in my view, an abdication of our responsibility to evaluate the President's nominees.

    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. Furthermore, the Senate should consider the reliability of those who refused to meet with Democratic staff on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to discuss their allegations.

    Come on. Let's stop playing political games with this. We have a good person, a person we should be thankful is willing to serve this country, a person who has been the subject of lies and smears. Director Mayorkas will serve the Department of Homeland Security, and the American people, honorably. Let's vindicate this person. Let's put him to work for the good of the country.

    I thank the distinguished chairman from Delaware for his work on this.

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