Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) blocked legislation to provide immigration relief and refugee status to Hong Kong residents fearing persecution. Whether it was in an attempt to seize the mantle of the anti-immigration leadership within the Republican Party for a future presidential race or for other reasons, Cruz prevented a bill from becoming law that was passed by the House of Representatives by voice vote. Cruz alleged that the bill could lead to the infiltration of spies into America, a charge that critics say stranded Jewish refugees in the 1930s and was used to discriminate (and intern) Americans from Japanese origin during WWII. This is the second recent bill that a Republican senator has blocked with anti-Chinese justification, which portends it will become a recurring tactic to stop immigration legislation.
– “Hong Kong will be treated as a [Temporary Protected Status] country designated by the TPS for 18 months from the enactment of this bill. (Eligible nationals of a country designated by the TPS cannot be deported from the United States and must have a work authorization while the designation is in effect.)
– “In addition, Hong Kong will be treated as separate from China for the purposes of various numerical limitations on immigrant visas. (Hong Kong is part of China but has a largely separate legal and economic system.)
– “For the purposes of claiming refugee status or asylum, a priority resident of Hong Kong (and certain family members of such an individual) may establish that the individual has a well-founded fear of persecution if the individual argues such a fear and (1) played an important role in an organization that supported the 2019 or 2020 protests related to China’s encroachment on Hong Kong autonomy or the National Security Act of Hong Kong enacted in 2020; or (2) has been arrested, charged, detained or sentenced for participating in the non-violent exercise of certain rights.
On December 18, 2020, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) requested unanimous consent for HR 8428 to be adopted by the Senate and proceed to the President’s office. Ted Cruz stood up to protest and made what critics believe to be questionable claims to justify his objection.
First, Cruz said, “This is not a Hong Kong bill. Rather, this is a Democratic messaging bill because House Democrats made, I think, a cynical decision to try and exploit the crisis in Hong Kong to further their long-standing goals of change our immigration laws. He then accused Democrats of adopting “open borders” and said: “[T]their preference is to make all immigration legal. This bill advances the Democrats’ long-standing partisan political agenda. “
The bill that was passed by the House had 23 cosponsors, including 6 Republicans. Democrats have done a bad job of enacting “open border” policies, if that was their goal: 3-4 million people are waiting in backlog of legal immigration, according to government data. While disapproving of Democrats using the situation in Hong Kong to enact what is a Hong Kong-specific bill, Cruz did not criticize the Trump administration’s efforts to use the coronavirus pandemic to adopt many preferences. long-standing policies on everything from asylum to family immigration and H-1B visa.
Second, Cruz claimed that the refugee standard would be “significantly lowered” in the bill and that China would use the legislation to send spies to America. “This bill, on the contrary, is designed and would dramatically lower the standards of refugee status and asylum to the point where individuals would be eligible even if they could not establish an individualized and credible fear of persecution,” said Cruz. “The Connecticut senator just listed that as a virtue of this bill – that you would no longer have to establish a credible fear of persecution; instead, this bill would drastically lower that standard. There is no reason to lower this standard, and there is a particular risk that this, we know, would be used by the Chinese Communists to send even more Chinese spies to the United States.
Immigration experts question Cruz’s characterizations of the bill and its impact. “Sen. Cruz is right to say that this” changes “the norm,” said lawyer Ira Kurzban, author of Kurzban’s Immigration Law Reference Book, in an interview. “The use of the word ‘inferior’ incorrectly suggests that we have never recognized people with certain characteristics as being eligible for asylum. In fact, the current law gives preference to Chinese nationals (and others) who are automatically defined as refugees. under 101 (a) (42) because the person “has been forced to abort a pregnancy or undergo involuntary sterilization, or who has been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure or for any other resistance to a coercive program of population control. . . ‘”
If Cruz were consistent, he would call for the elimination of this provision in the current law, but, suggests Kurzban, the Senator is unlikely to do so given the support the provision enjoys among religious organizations and others. “The provision of the current law, which was enacted due to China’s population policies, is a clear case of people entering independent of the traditional refugee definition by simply changing the definition to include them,” Kurzban said.
Kurzban notes that the existence of the provision in the current law offering refugee status to victims of forced abortion and involuntary sterilization contradicts Cruz’s argument that the Hong Kong bill is an opportunity for spies to come to the United States. The redefinition of refugees based on forced abortion and involuntary sterilization in current law includes everyone from China, and not just a limited group of resistance fighters from Hong Kong, Kurzban said.
Senator Durbin responded to Cruz’s assertion that Hong Kong residents seeking protection should be viewed as likely spies by noting that State Department officials used identical arguments in the 1930s against them. Jews. “We all intend to keep America safe, but classifying a bunch of people as all potential spies – and, therefore, they’re all going to be given to the Peking Lions if they get fired – basically seems to me. unfair and not consistent with what America has learned about immigration, “Durbin said.” There was suspicion during WWII about all these people coming from Europe, and they were turned away, many of them to death. We can’t make that mistake again. If there is a suspicious person, there is a way to determine it with screening, criminal background check, etc. “
An analogy is the treatment of another group of Asians as likely spies – Americans of Japanese descent. On February 19, 1942, shortly after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, the directive that authorized federal authorities to expel Japanese Americans from their homes and place them in in federal internment camps lest they be spies and saboteurs on behalf of Japan because of their racial and ethnic characteristics. This tragic policy served no legitimate military objective. “There was not a single Japanese American, foreigner or citizen, accused of espionage or sabotage during the war,” according to Richard Reeves, author of Infamy: The shocking story of the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII.
Recently, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) inserted what could turn out to be a “poison pill” in HR 1044, a bill to remove the “by country” limit on employment-based green cards. The wording reads: “The Secretary of Homeland Security will not change the status of any foreigner affiliated with the military forces of the People’s Republic of China or the Chinese Communist Party.” There is no identical language in immigration and nationality law for other nationalities, which begs the question of whether the types of objections raised by Scott and Cruz will become new tactical devices to block other immigration bills.
In his remarks to the Senate, Durbin noted that about 6,700 people from Hong Kong currently in the United States could be granted temporary protected status under the bill. “One of them is a student from Georgetown, for example, whose head has now been put on a price tag by the Chinese Communist Party, and the question is whether we are going to force him back to prison. I don’t think we want anyone suspected of spying in the US at all, but dismissing all of these people as possible spies doesn’t sound like to me – does that sound to you? – also consistent with who we are as a people, ”said Durbin.
The bill would re-establish Hong Kong as a separate entity from China when counting immigrant visas, which Donald Trump withdrew in 2020, harming people in Hong Kong. Trump’s action has placed those applying for EB-5 immigrant investor visas and other family and employer sponsored immigrant applicants in China’s much longer backlog, delaying or blocking their ability to immigrate in America.
Ted Cruz said more effective legislation would be his SCRIPT Act, which would prevent the federal government from providing assistance to a movie studio if it allowed censorship by the Chinese government. Here is what Cruz said in the Senate explaining why his bill would bring more help to the people of Hong Kong: “Doctor strange, another film – comic book film – in Doctor strange, they changed the character of the Old Tibetan, that’s how he’s described in the comic, in Celtic because, you know, the Chinese Communist censors, they don’t want to recognize Tibet – another an area that has been the subject of persecution and oppression from China – and Hollywood has humbly done so.
Film censorship is a legitimate issue, but people in Hong Kong looking to protect themselves seem to prefer Senator Cruz to support real people rather than those on screen. Owen Churchill, the American correspondent of the South China Morning Post, reported: “Asked [Georgetown Ph.D. student from Hong Kong] Jeffrey Ngo for his thoughts on Cruz skipping a bill that would have offered him and other Hong Kong activists protected status in the United States: “Let me think about the right word to use . I am enraged. ‘ “Ngo added,”[Cruz’s] today’s actions alone have endangered my safety and that of others like me.