Sen. Josh Hawley stops ‘quick confirmation’ for Biden Homeland Security nominee

Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley blocked quick consideration of President Joe Biden’s Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, on Tuesday.

“Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures,” Hawley said in a statement.

“Just today, he declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system. Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered,” he continued, according to CNN.

Hawley questioned Mayorkas on Tuesday about funds appropriated for the US-Mexico border wall and whether they would be spent as intended, in light of Biden’s pledge to halt wall construction.

While Mayorkas committed to following through with Biden’s promise, he maintained he’d do so “in adherence to the laws that guide us.”

As Homeland Security deputy secretary in the Obama administration, Mayorkas was accused of favoring well-connected Democrats. In 2015, he testified on allegations relating to three foreign-investor visa cases.

An Associated Press report said Mayorkas was testifying for the first time about a 99-page report from his agency’s inspector general that concluded he violated ethics rules when he intervened as head of USCIS in three foreign-investor visa cases involving prominent Democrats. He insisted he only got involved to deal with complicated legal questions.

Then-inspector general John Roth didn’t accuse Mayorkas of breaking the law. But Roth said the deputy secretary violated agency rules that Mayorkas had drafted as head of USCIS.

Roth found that Mayorkas improperly meddled with three visa cases involving the youngest brother of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The EB-5 program allows foreigners to obtain visas to live permanently in the United States 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 permanent residents after two years, and later can become U.S. citizens.

Mayorkas has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing since the allegations first surfaced before his July 2013 Senate confirmation hearing. During that hearing, Mayorkas called the allegations “unequivocally false.” After Roth’s report was made public, Mayorkas said he disagreed with the findings but said, “I will certainly learn from it and from this process.”

In an ABC News report, five different Homeland Security whistleblowers said there were a range of cases where visas were approved despite numerous red flags. They said objections were often ignored because the immigration program is so popular within the Obama administration and with members of Congress. As the EB-5 visa program grew in popularity, the programs critics have become increasingly concerned about that administration’s failure to adequately address abuses that have continued to surface.

“It is shocking,” Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican said at the time. “Particularly when you have F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies that are saying national security could be compromised or is being compromised — that’s enough for us to be concerned.”