On June 26th, the U.S. Senate confirmed Leon Rodriguez as the next director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with a vote of 52-43. Rodgriguez, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in December to replace Alejandro Mayorkas (who moved to deputy secretary of DHS) will take over for acting Director Lori Scialabba.
Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, commented that “Rodriguez brings a wealth of experience from his previous role in the Department of Health and Human Services and Justice. His distinguished career, intellect, dedication and professionalism will help him perform well in his new role.”
Rodriguez will leave the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he has been director since 2011. He previously served as chief of staff and deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, overseeing cases involving discrimination based on national origin and immigration status.
In March, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered several executive nominees – including for USCIS Director – and recommended Rodriguez’s confirmation. At the hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the most vocal supporter of the EB-5 Regional Center Program, made the following statement about the nomination of Mr. Rodriguez to USCIS Director and its implications for EB-5:
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing to consider President Obama’s nominee to be Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Leon Rodriguez. This office within the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for administering and processing asylum and refugee applications, immigration benefits, and naturalization and visa petitions, including the EB-5 Regional Center Program. This office must have a qualified director at the helm.
Since its inception in 1993, the EB-5 program has spurred capital investment and job creation across the country and particularly in Vermont. Vermont’s Regional Center is a national leader in using this federal jobs program. I have seen this program transform regions of the state in extraordinary ways that will have lasting positive impacts for several Vermont businesses. In the way the program has been overseen at the state level and applied throughout the state, Vermont’s process has become the gold standard for other states to emulate. Last year the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved my amendment to enact broad improvements to this program during the Committee’s consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This amendment was the product of cooperation with numerous stakeholders, USCIS, and the White House, and I was proud that it drew such strong support. It has now been more than nine months since the full Senate passed historic immigration reform legislation with a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32. The country cannot continue to wait. It is time for the House of Representatives to take up and pass the Senate bill, which included the improvements to EB-5 that I have long sought.
I have met with Mr. Rodriguez and found him to be an excellent candidate to lead such an important division. He has vast leadership and management experience, spanning both public and private practice, and often intersecting with issues of national origin and immigration status. He also understands how important the EB-5 program is to states like Vermont. He understands the challenges facing EB-5, including inexcusably long application processing delays, and he is committed to working with us in Congress to strengthen the program and make it permanent. I applaud President Obama for selecting Mr. Rodriguez and I look forward to advancing his nomination in this Committee and on the Senate floor.