The EB-5 visa program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), allows foreigners who invest significant money in U.S. business ventures that create jobs for Americans to apply for a green card--or legal permanent residence--in the U.S. Certain family members of the investors may also apply for green cards.
The report found three separate EB-5 cases, each involving high-profile Democrats, Mayorkas intervened "outside the normal adjudicatory process" and "in ways that benefited the stakeholders.”
According to the report, in one case, Mayorkas "pressured staff" to expedite the review of a Las Vegas hotel and casino investment at the request of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In another he executed an "unprecedented" intervention to help GTA, a company chaired by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, the report found. And in a third, he ordered USCIS to reverse a decision to deny EB-5 funding for Sony movie projects in Los Angeles after hearing from former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, according to the inspector general.
The cases would have been "decided differently" if not for Mayorkas' intervention, according to the March 2015 report.
"His intervention in these matters created significant resentment in USCIS," the inspector general wrote, saying that the investigation was triggered after complaints from USCIS staff.
Mayorkas appeared before the Republican-led House Homeland Security Committee in 2015 to answer questions after the inspector general report was released.
"The [Department of Homeland Security] Inspector General found that... employees perceived I exercised undue influence in these cases,” Mayorkas told the committee, according to ABC News. “I bear responsibility for the perception of my employees. That is my responsibility and I acknowledge that.”
In a statement after the report's release, Mayorkas said he would "learn from it," but went on to slam the EB-5 as "badly broken when I arrived," claiming that he had to get involved.
"While I disagree with the Inspector General’s report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process. ... The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS," Mayorkas said in a statement after the report's release.
"There was erroneous decision-making and insufficient security vetting of cases," Mayorkas said at the time. "I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes."
Some of the Republicans who came down the hardest on Mayorkas in 2015 still hold their positions of power.
"The Inspector General’s report paints a clear picture of how Mr. Mayorkas, when Director of the agency, used poor judgment" Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote on a 2015 letter to then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. "You have an obligation to ensure there is accountability."