New emails reveal that Terry McAuliffe pressured Homeland Security officials to approve visas for foreigners investing in his electric car company, using friends within the department to urge the head of Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to hasten the process.
Obtained by Watchdog.org through a Freedom of Information Act request, the emails indicate that the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia harnessed his political connections to expedite investments for Greentech Automotive, his former company now under federal investigation.
Greentech’s funding came from overseas investors, mostly from China. The company utilized a little-known rule allowing foreigners who lend at least $500,000 to American companies to live and work in the United States.
Known as EB-5 visas, the program has been criticized as a “visas-for-sale” scheme with national security implications. It is currently under investigation by the FBI.
As chairman of Greentech, McAuliffe was concerned with the slow USCIS vetting process for EB-5 visa applications. In November 2012 he reached out to Noah Kroloff, former Chief of Staff for retired Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to explain those concerns.
Within a few hours, Kroloff was able to put him in touch with USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Just had a good call with Ali [Mayorkas],” McAuliffe told Kroloff.
But the conversation evidently wasn’t enough to push Mayorkas to subvert the vetting process. In February 2013 McAuliffe tried a new tactic, getting a lawyer from Greentech’s fundraising arm to email Assistant Secretary Douglas Smith about the visa “emergency.”
“Obviously, USCIS’s undue delay in issuing a decision . . . is becoming a serious issue for us,” the lawyer wrote, adding that an electric car plant in Mississippi would have to close unless the visas were processed in the next few days.
Smith, in turn, began leaning heavily on both Kroloff and Mayorkas to expedite the applications. “Any way you can kick Ali into gear?” he asked Kroloff on February 1, while simultaneously telling Mayorkas “I know you are hesitant to weigh in, but the plant will be forced to close unless this can be resolved today. Thanks for your immediate attention to this.”