Last week, the State Department rescinded more than 1,000 visas from Chinese nationals, acting on a proclamation issued by President Donald Trump in May that suspended programs for foreign academics with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The revocation comes amid concerns about security risks posed by participants in the F and J visa programs. Acting United States Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf stated that the rescindment targets “certain Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to China’s military fusion strategy to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research.”
Acting Secretary Wolf’s comments are not unfounded. Operatives for the CCP have infiltrated academic and research institutions, corporations, and even embassies. Some educational visa programs provide foreign nationals access to sensitive information and technology. For instance, Chinese students and researchers are often given access to university laboratories and facilities that host delicate information pertaining to civilian and military research. This information can be stolen and sent back to China to be used against the American citizen. Their abuse of this benefit puts American safety and intellectual property in jeopardy.
Confronting national security breaches should be a top priority for public officials. So far, the Trump administration’s concerns about China’s nefarious agenda are being taken seriously by some federal agencies. In July, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a nationwide operation to investigate student visa holders with possible connections to the Chinese military. Additionally, federal lawmakers have proposed legislation that would bar foreign nationals suspected of espionage from obtaining a visa.
While these are steps in the right direction, the government can do more to curtail intellectual theft by foreign agents. In 2018, almost 13,000 Chinese nationals remained in the U.S. past the expiration of their visas. Enforcing the removal of visa overstays would help reduce the number of foreign residents who steal American research. Additionally, implementing legislation, such as the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act, which gives the DHS more oversight in their screening of immigrants for criminal activity would reduce threats from aliens.
The loss of sensitive intelligence and American ingenuity is reason enough to reform and strengthen the student visa system. China long has been a forceful adversary of the U.S. and the rest of the world. We should not tolerate the undermining of our laws to achieve their goal.