As Democrats in the filibuster-free U.S. Senate rush to fill key administration vacancies before the Christmas break, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley assailed Department of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas and the federal government's largest agency in a scathing floor speech this week.
Grassley, of Iowa, is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration issues. Excerpts of his address, obtained by Watchdog.org, follow:
“I have major concerns with Mr. Mayorkas’ nomination.
“First, I want to discuss how Mr. Mayorkas has carried out the president’s directive giving legal status to thousands of individuals who are in the United States unlawfully.
“In 2012, Mr. Mayorkas was charged with implementing this president’s directive, known as DACA. I have always questioned whether the president’s directive is legal. The administration never responded to our request for their legal basis and opinions.
“This administration has not been transparent about who is getting deferred action, how they are processing them, and whether those who have been denied have been processed for removal.
“They may call this program ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals‘ but it clearly benefits older adults and possibly people who intentionally broke our laws. The agency didn’t deny a single applicant until after the 2012 election. We still don’t know how many people were actually denied. We do know, however, that people were approved despite shoddy evidence, such as an X-Box receipt and Facebook postings.
“They always seem to find a way to get an approval.
“And all denials for ‘DACA’ have to be run through Washington. Adjudicators on the line were given clear instructions that they were not allowed to deny. Whistleblowers said that Mr. Mayorkas himself had to approve all denials.
“Think about that.
“No denial was allowed unless the head of the agency personally approved it. What kind of message does that send to the career employees trying to do their jobs impartially? The boss has his thumb on the scale.
“That isn’t the rule of law.
“Mr. Mayorkas’s message to adjudicators seems to have been that they had better ‘get to a yes’ or he’d personally get involved. This ‘get to yes’ philosophy came up time and again with agency whistleblowers.
“The Office of Inspector General looked into the situation and confirmed what whistleblowers had said.
“A quarter of immigration service officers interviewed felt pressure to approve questionable applications. Ninety percent felt they didn’t have sufficient time to complete interviews of those who seek benefits.
“The Office of Inspector General report clearly showed that the agency had been pervaded by the ‘Get to Yes’ culture.
“Unfortunately, that culture hadn’t changed under Mr. Mayorkas’ leadership.
“In fact, based on concerns I heard from whistleblowers who contacted my office in mid-July of this year, it seems to have gotten worse.
“These whistleblowers were aware that Mr. Mayorkas had been nominated to this Homeland Security position in late June. They were also aware that since the fall of 2012, Mr. Mayorkas had been a subject of an Office of Inspector General investigation into allegations of ethical or criminal misconduct.
“When Mr. Mayorkas’ nomination hearing was scheduled, the whistleblowers were surprised. They wondered why a hearing would proceed while the investigation was still open and pending, and contacted my office to make sure Congress was told about the investigation.
“The existence of an investigation was news to me. However, I don’t sit on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. So, my staff contacted the staff of the ranking (Republican) member of that Committee, Dr. (Tom) Coburn. His staff was also unaware that the nominee was under investigation by the Inspector General.
“It is extremely troubling that a hearing was scheduled to proceed without the ranking member of the committee knowing about a pending investigation of the nominee within the executive branch."