A Department of Homeland Security agent testified Thursday that she nearly lost custody of her 1-year-old adopted daughter and was told that she could not own a personal firearm after she voiced concerns about a little known federal program that grants green cards to foreign investors.
Taylor Johnson, a senior special agent with a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), testified at a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing alongside several other whistleblowers who claim they’ve faced retaliation for reporting wrongdoing in their agencies.
Johnson, an 11-year veteran of ICE, said she began investigating a U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) program called EB-5. The program grants green cards to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. companies.
Johnson testified that during her investigation she uncovered and disclosed gross mismanagement and public corruption that posed “national security risks” and threatened public safety.
“Some of the violations investigated surrounding the project included bank and wire fraud, and I discovered ties to organized crime and high-ranking politicians and they received promotions that appeared to facilitate the program,” Johnson testified.
She said that during her investigation she “discovered that EB-5 applicants from China, Russia, Pakistan, Malaysia had been approved in as little as 16 days” and that case files “lacked the basic and necessary law enforcement queries.”
“I found over 800 operational EB-5 regional centers throughout the U.S.,” Johnson said, stating that she found this “disturbing” given that the U.S. allows only 10,000 EB-5 applications per year.
“I could not identify how USCIS was holding each regional center accountable or how they were tracked once they were inside the U.S.,” she added.
Johnson’s testimony comes as the EB-5 program is under intense scrutiny from a damning report released in March by DHS’ inspector general, John Roth. Roth’s report concluded that former USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas, now the second-in-command at DHS, intervened in an “unprecedented” manner to help expedite EB-5 applications.
Some of those who Mayorkas was in contact with include Nevada U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and current Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Mayorkas met with Reid to discuss an EB-5 application for the Sands Casino, a Las Vegas casino which employed Reid’s son’s law firm.
Mayorkas was in routine contact with McAuliffe who aggressively pushed for EB-5 approval for his company, GreenTech Automotive. Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, was also involved in that deal.
It is unclear if Johnson investigated Mayorkas or any applications involving Reid or McAuliffe.
After receiving complaints from “high-ranking officials” at outside agencies, Johnson’s managers shut down her investigation, she testified. From there, she says she was “subjected to a significant amount of harassment and retaliation.”
Blowback started when she was escorted from her work desk and prohibited from accessing her case files or other personal records.
She also said that her service firearm and credentials were confiscated. But the gun grab went further.
“I was told I couldn’t even carry or own a personal weapon which is a constitutional rights violation,” Johnson said.
Johnson grew emotional during one part of her testimony when she discussed how the retaliation she faced hit home, literally.
“When an adoption social worker tried to contact and verify employment, she was told that I had been terminated for a criminal offense,” Johnson said, her voice shaky.
“I almost lost my 1-year-old child.”