By Joe Guzzardi
March 30, 2015
Harry Reid’s recent announcement that he will not run for re-election in 2016 shocked Capitol Hill. The Senate Minority leader had said repeatedly that not only would he be a 2016 candidate, but could not foresee the day that he wouldn’t run.
But shortly after sustaining severe injuries from what Reid claimed was an exercise bicycle accident, he abruptly said that at the end of his current term he would retire. Reid unconvincingly added that the Democratic Party had better use for its money than to fund his campaign, and that for the Senate’s good, he would step aside.
Reid’s explanation for not running again has few believers. Instead the conventional wisdom, with considerable supporting proof, is that Reid’s entanglement in a visa manipulation scandal involving one of the most fraud-ridden of all visas, the EB-5, may be catching up with him.
Also known as the citizenship for sale visa, the EB-5 employment-based visa has skyrocketed in popularity during the Obama administration. In exchange for a $500,000 investment in a new American businesses, foreign nationals will jump to the head of the line for two year legal residency. If the business ultimately creates ten new jobs within those two years, even indirectly, the investor receives permanent residency. Visas are also issued to spouses and children so eventually the whole family can enjoy the benefits of full citizenship.
A growing body of evidence suggests that Reid pressured the Department of Homeland Security to expedite EB-5 visas to prospective investors of dubious character in a Las Vegas casino project. The evidence doesn’t come from partisan Reid critics but rather from a DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report which concluded that: “Reid pressured a compliant DHS official [DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas] to override normal departmental procedures and rush through 230 EB-5 foreign visa applications, thereby freeing up $115 million the applicants invested in the SLS Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.” One of the 230 has been linked to child pornography in China; others submitted false documentation to DHS. The report also names Reid’s son Rory, a legal adviser to the casino.
The OIG states that Mayorkas ignored repeated warnings from career DHS employees that the applications should be denied. Mayorkas’ intervention, however, assured that they would be approved. In his defense, Mayorkas filed a 32-page rebuttal claiming his hands on management style was intended to compensate for what he alleged is the burdensome EB-5 process. Despite the furor the OIG report created and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s demand for consequences, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that Mayorkas’ job is safe.
Insiders speculate that Reid’s early retirement represents his hedge against possible prosecution. Former U.S. Attorney Joe di Genova thinks that it’s highly probable that if the Department of Justice opened a preliminary criminal investigation into Reid’s involvement, it would convene a Grand Jury. That won’t happen during Obama’s administration, but might if a Republican wins the White House in 2016.
Now that fraud may have reached the highest levels in Washington, the U.S. must take control of its mounting visa problems. The State Department offers more than 50 visa categories for every conceivable purpose, many of them frivolous. Starting with the benign tourist visa to the mostly obscure transit visas, all are easily and routinely abused.
Even if DHS had the political will and the personnel to enforce regulations governing those visas—it has neither—it couldn’t keep up. In the meantime, American’s common good continues to be undermined in favor of special interest groups, and the political indulgence that’s unfairly and often illegally given to them.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]