In early May, nearly 50 former U.S. officials who held prominent federal government positions sent an urgent letter to Senate Majority and Minority leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, and to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Also copied was the Bipartisan Innovation Act Conference Committee, a group that will reconcile differences in the Senate and House versions of separate bills which address America’s global competitiveness.
Included among the letter’s signatories are the former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the Department of Navy, as well as the former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, a CIA director, their assistants and undersecretaries and a two-term U.S. representative. The letter’s tone is alarmist.
Summarized, the letter bemoaned what the writers called “immigration bottlenecks” and their “self-inflicted drag…on American competitiveness.” Their predictable solution: more immigration in the form of attracting an ever-higher number of science, technology, engineering and math students, the so-called STEM fields. The House version, America COMPETES, exempts numerical limits and country cap quotas for green cards for international students with advanced STEM degrees. Without the green card lure, the writers warned, the U.S. will be unable to attract the “best and brightest” foreign-born STEM talent and will lose its innovative edge. The House bill would also create new but unnecessary visas which translates to more immigration, including the “W,” for start-up business owners, and the EB-4 for South Korean foreign nationals.
The bombastic letter indicates that none of the DHS, CBP, CIA or U.S. representative signatories have any concern that their panic to attract international students, including Chinese nationals. China is the U.S.’s leading rival for worldwide tech superiority, and importation of Chinese nationals could lead to more national security breaches, intellectual property theft and stolen personal data. Evidence of China’s threat is abundant. A sampling: more than 24 Chinese nationals have been convicted of spying against the U.S., and the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) have been infiltrated by People’s Republic of China subversives.
International students’ path to STEM degrees begins with an F-1 visa which allows them to enroll in a U.S. university. In the academic year 2020-2021, China was the leading contributor to overall international student enrollment with 317,299, a figure that COVID-19 reduced from the previous year’s 372,532 total. Nearly 40 percent of the Chinese 2020-2021 class studied STEM disciplines. A 2020 Center for Security and Emerging Technology study found that in pre-pandemic academic year 2018-2019, an estimated 122,000 Chinese nationals were pursuing STEM undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. degrees.
How worrisome the high Chinese STEM enrollment depends on whether an analyst considers China friend or foe. President Biden has made conflicting statements about the China-U.S. relationship. On one hand, Biden called President Xi his “old friend.” On another day, however, Biden said that China believed it would eventually “own America” within 15 years.
If Biden believes China’s goal is to conquer America, then inviting thousands of Chinese nationals to study STEM at the nation’s most prestigious universities is self-defeating and would accelerate the nation’s demise. Chinese status as students gives potential agents cover, and if the PRC orders them to spy, they know that it’s in their best interest to comply.
But congressional elites are oblivious to the growing danger that Chinese international students represent to the homeland.
In 2020, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) proposed that Chinese nationals be banned from coming to the U.S. to study STEM. Cotton suggested that in the interest of world harmony, young Chinese would be better served reading Shakespeare and the Federalist papers instead of mastering skills that they could use against America. Cotton called granting foreign students STEM degrees from U.S. universities “a scandal” because they return to China “to compete for our jobs, to take our business, and ultimately to steal our property and design weapons and other devices that can be used against the American people.”
Cotton’s straight talk, ignored by his colleagues and mocked by his detractors, is irrefutable. Weaponizing the enemy is folly. Yet, the letter’s signatories, officials supposedly well-trained in homeland security and once entrusted by the electorate to protect them from harm, insist on aiding the enemy which would accelerate America’s decline.