Republican Senators Introduce the Protecting America From Spies Act

July 30, 2020 Updated: July 30, 2020

Following the closing of the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Wednesday introduced legislation to protect the nation from spies. Cruz and three other Republican senators created a proposal that will deny visas to anyone who has spied on or stolen intellectual property from the United States.

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) joined Cruz to advance the Protecting America from Spies Act.

“Under current law, the Chinese Communist Party’s spies expelled from the U.S. have the ability to immediately reapply for visas,” Cruz’s office noted. “The Protecting America from Spies Act would update the Immigration and Naturalization Act to ensure past, present, and future espionage and tech-transfer activity is considered inadmissible for entry into the United States.”

The bill also states that if the spying occurred within the past 5 years, the spouse and children of the alien would also be disqualified from obtaining or renewing a visa.

The U.S. State Department ordered the Chinese Consulate in Houston to close on July 22. According to State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, China was violating U.S. sovereignty.

“The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior. President Trump insists on fairness and reciprocity in U.S.-China relations,” Ortagus said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.

According to Senate Intelligence Committee Acting Chairman Marco Rubio, the consulate was not used for diplomatic purposes.

“China’s consulate in Houston is not a diplomatic facility. It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies and influence operations in the United States. Now that building must close & the spies have 72 hours to leave or face arrest,” Rubio said on Twitter on July 22, adding that the closure is long overdue.

The closure order came on the heels of an indictment of two Chinese nationals for a decade-long cyber espionage campaign in which they were accused of stealing information on weapons designs, drug information, software source code, and personal data.

Cruz said that China has been using espionage against the United States without consequence for “far too long.”

“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,” said Cruz, adding that that is why he led the effort to introduce the Protect American from Spies Act.

The bill, which has been sent to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, is being introduced in the House by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.). “It is past time to stop known spies from China coming back into our country,” Hartzler said.

In September last year, the United States expelled two Chinese embassy officials for driving onto a “sensitive” military base in Virginia, the first time in more than 30 years that Chinese diplomats were expelled over suspected espionage.

Top U.S. officials have recently ramped up criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), saying the regime is the biggest threat to the United States.

Roughly 80 percent of all economic espionage prosecutions brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges criminal conduct intended to benefit the CCP. China is involved in some way in about 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases, according to the DOJ.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau is opening a new counterintelligence investigation involving China every 10 hours. The bureau has more than 2,000 active China-related investigations, as part of the China Initiative, a large-scale counter-CCP campaign launched in November 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.