Wealthy foreign investors were being fast-tracked for green cards at a Citizenship and Immigration Services office in California under pressure from senior officials and it caused such security issues that the program was moved to Washington, reports The Washington Times
Internal documents and a whistleblower's account revealed that the constant violations of agency policy at the Laguna Niguel office resulted in well-connected foreign applicants who invested in a U.S.-based company receiving EB-5 visas with little or no economic review.
The EB-5 visa gives permanent residency status, or green cards, to foreign nationals who invest $1 million, or $500,000 in high unemployment areas, creating at least 10 jobs.
The economic vetting for EB-5 applicants is vital to immigration analysts because of the potential security risks of granting visas to investors who may have links to foreign intelligence services, terrorist groups or organized crime.
According to the Times, the problem gained national attention when Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, revealed that CIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas was linked to the vetting of an EB-5 application filed by Virginia Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe.
Although Mayorkas has claimed he was following agency protocol and did nothing wrong, the program is now the subject of an audit by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security. The Times, citing documents released by Grassley, also reported that Mayorkas, who is President Obama’s nominee for deputy secretary of the embattled department, is also the subject of a criminal investigation by the inspector general.
The Times says that until Mayorkas intervened, McAuliffe's EB-5 application, which was related to the electric car company GreenTech Automotive, was being held up over security concerns in another case involving a suspected Ponzi scheme in Texas involving Chinese investors.
The whistleblower, an immigration analyst at the office, claimed that under pressure from his superiors EB-5 applicants were often fast-racked through the process in up to five days despite that fact that the application raised national security red flags. As with the application from McAuliffe's car company, the analyst received pressure from his manager, who told him Mayorkas "needs this fast."
The Times revealed that the analyst claimed his direct superior would mention the name of Donald Neufeld, associate director of field operations, or Barbara Velarde, the number two official in the CIS service centers operation, who are both based in Washington, as part of the fast-tracking pressure.
The program was transferred from Laguna Niguel to Washington last December. The Times noted that a spokesman said the move was “a direct reflection of CIS‘ continued prioritization of the program’s integrity.”
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