Late last week, FAIR noted that the House of Representatives quietly passed an immigration bill that is nothing more than a broad carve-out for residents of Hong Kong.
This deeply flawed bill, the “Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act (H.R. 8428),” significantly alters the process by which the federal government awards controversial Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to aliens currently in the United States. Even worse, it expands the definition of refugee and asylum status specifically for Hong Kong residents, setting a dangerous precedent and creating something that can be abused and exploited by the Chinese Community Party.
Having passed the House by voice vote, the bill then came to the Senate. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced on the floor of the Senate that he would block the legislation being fast tracked, citing two reasons for doing so.
Senator Cruz first highlighted that this bill arrived at the Senate having bypassed the normal legislative process in the lower chamber. The House of Representatives did not truly vote on this bill, but rather passed it through voice vote – a tool normally used to advance uncontroversial legislation. This bill is hardly uncontroversial. Under normal procedure and respect for the integrity of our immigration system, this bill would require committee review, a committee vote, and then a full floor vote. None of those procedures took place, and a hastily-submitted bill arrived to the Senate without the full participation of the lower chamber’s members.
But Senator Cruz’s main issue with the bill involves its inherent national security risks. In his remarks, Senator Cruz outlined that Congress “need(s) to have a substantive, bipartisan conversation about standing up for our allies and countering the Chinese Communist Party,” but argued that H.R. 8428 does not achieve that goal. Instead, it creates a carve-out for essentially anyone in Hong Kong to take advantage of and journey to the United States. The bill ignores well-established rules in place for people of any country to seek refugee or asylum status in the United States, and refuses to acknowledge that the United States already admits tens of thousands of Chinese asylum-seekers each year.
Senator Cruz acknowledges that the changes to asylum and TPS in H.R. 8428 are ripe for manipulation and exploitation by Chinese state intelligence. This is not some far-fetched, tin-foil hat conspiracy theory. Just this month, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) – a member of the House Intelligence Committee – came under fire for his relationship with Chinese spy Christine Fang. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also employed someone who ended up being a Chinese spy and who passed political intelligence to his Chinese handlers. China possesses one of the most advanced and effective foreign intelligence operations in the world, rivaling America’s own intelligence community. They use every tool at their disposal to counter and check American interests, with growing success.
It is thus highly probable that Chinese intelligence would do everything in their power to place spies in these programs, if only to get them to the United States and on a path to citizenship. In his floor speech, Cruz said that “this bill would dramatically lower (the asylum) standard. There is no reason to lower that standard, and there is particular risk when doing so, we know, would be used by the Chinese Communists to send even more Chinese spies into the United States.”
Senator Cruz is absolutely correct on this point, and FAIR supported his move to block this legislation from passing by unanimous consent in the Senate. The bill’s intentions are noble, but H.R. 8428 requires significant alterations in order to assuage national security concerns.
Lastly, Senator Cruz’s bold action provides an encouraging preview of what to expect from him in the 117th Congress, when Democrats will attempt to steamroll terrible immigration bills at the expense of American workers and national security.