Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is alleged to have misused his position to help immigrant investors tied to top Democrats get visas leading to fast-track green cards, the congressional staffers told The Washington Post.
The probe threatens to delay the Senate's planned consideration Thursday of Mayorkas' nomination. Mayorkas was expected to run the Department of Homeland Security in an acting capacity after Secretary Janet Napolitano leaves in September to run the University of California.
The immigrant investors had applied for the so-called EB-5 visas through a company led by the brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, emails posted on conservative website Watchdog.org indicated.
Anthony Rodham, president and chief executive officer of Gulf Coast Funds Management of McLean, Va., asked for Mayorkas' assistance in January, the emails indicated.
Rodham and other Gulf Coast officials said delays in the EB-5 program were hurting GreenTech Automotive, a McLean maker of energy-efficient electric vehicles co-founded by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Post said.
McAuliffe stepped down as GreenTech chairman Dec. 1 and is now running for Virginia governor.
A DHS email sent to Senate staffers Monday said the inquiry by Inspector General Charles K. Edwards had so far not determined "any findings of criminal misconduct," the Post said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney Tuesday referred questions to Edwards. Edwards' office had no immediate comment.
Gulf Coast and GreenTech officials said they were unaware of the inspector general's investigation.
The EB-5 program lets foreign nationals get the visas if they invest $1 million in businesses or projects that create U.S. jobs for U.S. citizens. The investment can be $500,000 in high-unemployment or rural areas.
If the foreign national investor's petition is approved, investors and their dependents can be granted permanent legal residence status after two years, a United Press International review of the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website indicates.
Mayorkas has a Senate panel confirmation hearing set for Thursday under an expedited approval process requested by the White House.
But Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked for the nomination to be put on hold until the inspector general's inquiry is completed, a Coburn aide told the Post.
Panel Chairman Thomas Carper, D-Del., has not decided whether to delay the hearing, aides told the newspaper.