Republicans looking for more answers in visa program probe

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Homeland Security's No. 2 Accused of 'Political Favoritism'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans are expected to press a government watchdog for more answers about allegations of undue influence exerted by the Homeland Security Department's No. 2 in three foreign investment visa cases.

Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth concluded in a 99-page report released earlier this week that Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas improperly intervened in three investor visa cases involving prominent Democrats, including the youngest brother of likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Republicans looking for more answers in visa program probe
FILE - In this July 25, 2013 file photo, Alejandro Mayorkas, then-President Obama's nominee to become deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. A new inspector general’s report has concluded that Mayorkas, now the No. 2 official at the Homeland Security Department improperly intervened on behalf of foreign investors. It happened in three cases involving the U.S. government soliciting foreign investments in exchange for American visas. Investigators said Tuesday that his involvement created the appearance of favoritism and special access. The investigation could not suggest a motive for his involvement. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Alejandro Mayorkas, President Obama's nominee to become deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 25, 2013, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on his nomination. Mayorkas strongly denied allegations that he had helped a politically connected company obtain a foreign investor visa, as his nomination got a White House vote of confidence. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, listens during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, speaks during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, questions Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, not pictured, during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, makes an opening statement during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing with Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks about the agency's budget and cybersecurity at the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee session during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Several Republican governors are urging GOP congressional leaders to stand firm next week in opposing legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security if it doesn't also overturn President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
President Barack Obama pauses as he delivers remarks at the Department of Homeland Security on his FY2016 budget proposal, on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Washington. Obama warned congressional Republicans Monday that he won't accept a spending plan that boosts national security at the expense of domestic programs for the middle class. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks with Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee Vice Chair Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during the committee's session on cyber security during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Several Republican governors are urging GOP congressional leaders to stand firm next week in opposing legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security if it doesn't also overturn President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, right, is greeted by Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee Vice Chair Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, during the committee's session on cybersecurity at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Several Republican governors are urging GOP congressional leaders to stand firm next week in opposing legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security if it doesn't also overturn President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, chair, Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee and Army Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, commander, Army Cyber Command, participate in the committee's session on cybersecurity during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 18: Vilvoorde, Belgium, Mayor Hans Bonte participates in a panel discussion during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building February 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. In the wake of last month's slaughter of journalists and police officers in Paris by Muslim extremists, Hidalgo said Paris plans to sue Fox News for 'inaccurate reports' about Muslim 'no-go areas.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Acting director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy shakes hands with President Barack Obama at Department of Homeland Security after Obama delivered remarks on his FY2016 budget proposal, on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Washington. Obama warned congressional Republicans Monday that he won't accept a spending plan that boosts national security at the expense of domestic programs for the middle class. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., right, walk towards the podium to answers questions from reporters following their weekly policy luncheon, at the Capital in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. In the Senate, Democrats had more than enough votes to block action on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security and overturn presidential executive orders that have spared an estimated four million immigrants in the country illegally from the threat of deportation. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is led into the Senate Chamber after addressing the media in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, February 3, 2015. In the Senate, Democrats had more than enough votes to block action on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security and overturn presidential executive orders that have spared an estimated four million immigrants in the country illegally from the threat of deportation. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., listens after addressing the media in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, February 3, 2015. In the Senate, Democrats had more than enough votes to block action on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security and overturn presidential executive orders that have spared an estimated four million immigrants in the country illegally from the threat of deportation. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus talks to a reporter after attending the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol February 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats filibustered the legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department because it included a measure to roll back President Obama's executive order on immigration. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 02: US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the Department of Homeland Security about his newly revealed budget and Republicans threat to not approve funding for the agency in Washington, D.C. on February 02, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An employee sits at his computer terminal within the National Operations Center (NOC) at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC, February 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his Fiscal Year 2016 Budget at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Feb. 2, 2015. Obama sent Congress a $4 trillion budget that would raise taxes on corporations and the nation's top earners, spend more on infrastructure and housing, and stabilize, but not eliminate, the annual budget deficit. Photographer: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 02: US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the Department of Homeland Security about his newly revealed budget and Republicans threat to not approve funding for the agency in Washington, D.C. on February 02, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson walks on Capitol Hill February 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Roth said in his report that more than 15 whistleblowers spoke with his investigators about Mayorkas' intervention while he was head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The report concluded that in the three cases Mayorkas went "outside of the normal ... process, and intervened with the career USCIS staff in ways that benefited" the groups seeking his help. His actions, Roth wrote, created the appearance of favoritism and special access and caused resentment among career government employees, managers and lawyers.

Roth is scheduled to testify about the investigation before the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday. The investigation was first reported by The Associated Press days before Mayorkas' July 2013 Senate confirmation hearing.

The visa applications Mayorkas is accused of meddling with were part of the U.S. government's investor-visa program, known as EB-5, which allows foreigners to obtain visas to live permanently in the U.S. with their spouse and children if they invest $500,000 to $1 million in projects or businesses that create jobs for American citizens. Approved investors can become legal permanent residents after two years and later can become U.S. citizens.

Mayorkas said in a statement Tuesday that he disagreed with the inspector general's findings but that "I will certainly learn from it and from this process."

The committee chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and several other Republican lawmakers have been openly critical of Mayorkas' appointment and his work at USCIS. Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security Committee boycotted his confirmation hearing.

On Wednesday, the administration continued to defend Mayorkas, a longtime Democrat who served on President Barack Obama's transition team after his 2008 election and was U.S. attorney in California under President Bill Clinton. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Roth's report actually highlighted problems with the EB-5 investor visa program.

"Mr. Mayorkas is still at the Department of Homeland Security because he is a decorated public servant and an effective leader of that organization," Earnest said. "And we certainly value the kind of contribution that he has made to the effective management of that department, and he has played an important role in implementing needed reforms in that department. In fact, he was somebody who was leading the effort to strengthen the EB-5 program."

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