Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing legislation aimed at denying visas to foreigners who have engaged in espionage or intellectual property theft against the United States.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced the Protecting America from Spies Act on Tuesday with a particular focus on China, a country against which the Trump administration is turning up the pressure on several fronts. Hartzler introduced her version of the bill last month while Cruz dropped his in the evening on Tuesday.

Their goal is to empower the State Department to ensure that any espionage and illicit tech-transfer activity makes one ineligible for entry into the U.S. To do so, the Republicans aim to update the Immigration and Naturalization Act because, under current law, spies from China or elsewhere who are expelled from the U.S. are still allowed to then reapply for visas to regain entry.

The text of the legislation, first obtained by the Washington Examiner, would also make the spouses and children of those engaged in spying or trade theft within the past five years inadmissible to the U.S.

“It is past time to stop known Chinese spies from coming back into our country,” Hartzler said in a statement. Current laws only allow individuals to be denied entry if the consular officer has knowledge of future espionage plans. Our country needs to be protected so known bad actors are not allowed to steal from us again. I thank my House colleagues for joining me in this effort, and Senators Cruz, Rubio, Tillis, and Loeffler for introducing the Senate companion bill.”

At least four Chinese military members have been charged by the Justice Department in recent weeks for concealing their ties to China’s military and thus committing visa fraud while acting as students or researchers at U.S. universities.

“These members of China’s People Liberation Army applied for research visas while hiding their true affiliation with the PLA,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said last week. “This is another part of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions.”

John Brown, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, said that “in interviews with members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in over 25 cities across the U.S., the FBI uncovered a concerted effort to hide their true affiliation to take advantage of the United States and the American people.”

The text of the new legislation says that “any alien is inadmissible who … engages, has engaged, or will engage in any activity in violation of any law of the United States relating to espionage or sabotage … [or] in violation or evasion of any law prohibiting the export from the United States of goods, technology, or sensitive information.”

“For too long China and our competitors have been using non-traditional forms of espionage against our country without any consequences,” Cruz said. “The State Department’s recent closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston due to the Communist Chinese Party actively engaging in espionage and intellectual property theft was an important step, but more needs to be done. That’s why today my colleagues and I are introducing legislation to strengthen our laws and protect our national security by ensuring that any individuals who attempt to spy or steal from the United States and their family members are denied access to our country.”

Last week, the Justice Department accused two Chinese hackers, assisted by the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security, of seeking to steal coronavirus research and engaging in a 10-year global cybercampaign stealing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of information.

The Justice Department’s China Initiative aims to combat both Chinese espionage and its Thousand Talents Program, suspected of being geared toward stealing research, and the U.S. has arrested and charged a number of scientists, including Harvard’s chemistry department chairman, Charles Lieber. The agency charged Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in a global racketeering scheme earlier this year.

In June, the Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE as “national security threats” while the Pentagon named Huawei as one of 20 Chinese companies operating in the U.S. with direct ties to the Chinese government’s People’s Liberation Army.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have all given speeches in recent weeks warning of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: GOP legislation aims to deny visas to Chinese spies and their families

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