By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON — The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services testified Thursday that the EB-5 visa-investor program generates more complaints than any other at the agency.
And Gulf Coast Funds Management – a funding arm of Terry McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive – is among the biggest complainers, said Alejandro Mayorkas.
Documents obtained by Watchdog show that company executives have peppered top immigration officials with requests for help with its investor-visa program.
Gulf Coast “continues to complain” about the time and manner in which USCIS processes the company’s applicants, the director told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Mayorkas’ testimony contradicted Gulf Coast general counsel Simone Williams’ assertion this week that the McLean, Va-based firm “has not sought assistance from USCIS” in resolving cases.
Mayorkas is President Obama’s nominee to be deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. His nomination has been clouded by an investigation into his oversight of Gulf Coast’s EB-5 program.
Republican members boycotted the committee’s confirmation hearing Thursday, calling it premature in light of the ongoing investigation by DHS’ Inspector General’s Office.
Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., pressed Mayorkas for details about the EB-5 program generally, and Gulf Coast specifically.
Noting that the program has expanded “exponentially” in the past four years, the USCIS director said, “With growth, comes challenges to the program’s integrity.”
“Not a week goes by without complaints. We receive calls and emails from Congress more than weekly,” he testified.
Speaking about challenges in the EB-5 program generally, Mayorkas added, “We have seen cases where individuals have made misrepresentations to us – or worse yet, seek to enter the country when they may pose a threat.”
Mayorkas says he has bolstered analytic and enforcement efforts to buttress the program that awards U.S. residency to foreign nationals who invest $500,000 to $1 million in American businesses.
The USCIS chief said Gulf Coast’s complaints about his agency suggest that he has not done GCFM or GreenTech any favors.
“To be accused of tipping the scales seems a bit contradictory,” he said.
Testifying under oath, Mayorkas recounted, “I was asked to attend a meeting with (McAuliffe) so I could hear his complaints. I heard those complaints, and that was the extent of the interaction.” He recalled that the meeting occurred “about two years ago.”
Asked by Carper if he imposed any changes in the handling of Gulf Coast’s investor applications as a result of the meeting, Mayorkas responded, “Absolutely not.”
“I returned to my office and said I was tired of hearing complaints,” he said.
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