The New York Times has been investigating a controversial immigration case that could present another challenge for Hillary Clinton as she prepares for her presidential run. At the center of the controversy is a rather disreputable character named Estefanía Isaías. A wealthy, well-connected Ecuadorean television executive, she was barred from coming to the United States after being caught fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids. However, the New York Times reports that the Clinton State Department intervened to get her into the country “so that Ms. Isaías could work for an Obama fund-raiser with close ties to the administration.” The newspaper also notes that her fortunes changed after “her family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns.” Her family is accused of fraud costing the poor country $400 million. There are also serious questions being raised about the efforts of Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey in leading the intensive efforts to countermand the decisions of career officials in Washington and Ecuador in the case.
The Obama Administration is also refusing to extradite her father and uncle, Roberto and William Isaías, who were sentenced in absentia in 2012 to eight years in prison for running their bank into the ground and then presenting false balance sheets to profit from bailout funds. In the meantime, Ecuador says that Isaías bought protection in the United States and she continues to live in Miami off the profits of a looted bank in Ecuador.
Isaías had the added problem of filing false visa pretenses to get her maids into the country and then left them at her parents’ Miami home while she traveled. American consular officials called it “alien smuggling.”
Isaías was blocked from returning to the country. What followed was an intense effort for over a year by Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey get her the ban lifted. The Isaías family is a major donor to Menendez even though they do not live in his state. His staff reached out to Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. The timing could not look worse. The day after an email from Mr. Menendez’s office told the family that they had secured a waiver from the State Department, Ms. Isaías’s mother gave $40,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, which provided donations to the president and other Democrats.
In 2012, the Isaías family also donated about $100,000 to the Obama Victory Fund. The Times reports that their largest donations came “just before a request to the administration.” Ms. Isaías’s mother, María Mercedes, also recently donated $30,000 to the Senate campaign committee headed by Menendez led who had two staffers working on her family’s problems. The effort involved contacts with the White House, State Department, the consulate, Homeland Security and others. All to get Isaías in the country against the determined opposition of U.S. officials. Menendez even lobbied Mills himself and eventually the Administration caved.
This is of course not the first questionable association for Menendez who remains under investigation by the Justice Department for his advocacy for another out-of-state campaign donor. We previously discussed that relationship with Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, who is notorious for controversial Medicare billings.
Here is the least convincing part of the story. When the New York Times confronted Menendez’s office, his spokeswoman Patricia Enright said, “Our office handled this case no differently than we have thousands of other immigration-related requests over the years.” Really, a year long, international effort for a non-constituent. Perhaps the statement should be ““Our office handled this case no differently than [any other major donor].”
Source: New York Times