STEIN: The EAGLE Act Would Help China Steal More American Technology

Getty Images/Kevin Frayer

Dan Stein Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Font Size:

Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing against the passage of the EAGLE Act. You can find a counterpoint here, where Former Rep. Erik Paulsen argues that the EAGLE Act will make America’s immigration system fairer and the economy more competitive.

Folks on Capitol Hill spend a lot of time thinking up clever acronyms for their bills. In the case of the Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act, the acronym is not only clever, but descriptive. Aside from being the symbol of our nation, the eagle is a predator known for raiding the nests of other birds and making off with their eggs and chicks – which is a perfect metaphor for H.R. 3648, sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

Supporters of the EAGLE Act – which is being considered in the current lame duck session of Congress – like to say it is common-sense and has widespread support. Just last week, though, the bill had to be pulled from the House floor after Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA) came out against it. While it is slated to return to the floor this week, one thing is clear – the EAGLE Act is neither bipartisan nor uncontroversial.

At the urging of the politically-powerful tech industry, the EAGLE Act would abolish per-country caps for issuing employment-based green cards. Many applying for employer-sponsored green cards are people who enter this country on ostensibly temporary H-1B work visas and subsequently seek to adjust their status to permanent residents. The H-1B program is dominated by citizens of just two nations – India and China. Thus, there are far more Indian and Chinese nationals seeking employment-based green cards than can be accommodated under the per-country caps now in place.

Ensuring a diverse flow of immigrants has been a cornerstone principle of U.S. immigration policy since 1965, when we eliminated the discriminatory National Origins Quota system. On that basis alone, the EAGLE Act, which would lock up more than 90 percent of employment-based green cards for citizens of just two countries, represents a giant leap backwards. But what should be even more concerning is that one of the key beneficiaries of this legislation would be the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CCP is not merely a ruthless and repressive regime that rules its 1.4 billion citizens with an iron fist. It also poses an overt threat to the economic and national security interests of the United States (and many of our allies). The CCP has a long and documented record of engaging in military and industrial espionage against the United States, and has taken full advantage of a variety of American visa programs to place operatives in positions where they have access to some of our most sensitive secrets. Passage of the EAGLE Act would make it even easier for the CCP to exploit our openness.

This danger has even been acknowledged by the supporters of the EAGLE Act. In an attempt to allay these concerns, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduced a Manager’s Amendment in the House Committee on Rules to bar the issuance of H-1B visas or green card adjustments to those who hold membership in a communist or totalitarian party. The amendment is a nice idea, but utterly impractical. It is almost impossible to screen out CCP members who might be arriving from a country with a political and security apparatus as opaque as China’s, and clearly we cannot expect any assistance from Beijing in determining who might pose a security risk.

China claims that only about 7 percent of the country’s population holds membership in the CCP. But even if we knew who those 97 million people are, the party still exerts extraordinary control over the other 1.3 billion. Even non-party members can be coerced into doing the CCP’s bidding, either directly or through leverage that the regime holds over family members in China.

Given the magnitude of Chinese industrial and military espionage already being carried out in the United States, it is clear we are failing to screen out people who pose security risks. The degree of difficulty in doing so would only increase exponentially were the EAGLE Act to be signed into law, as would the magnitude of the damage the CCP might inflict on American security.

People who have talents, skills, and abilities that are beneficial to the United States can be found in every nation on earth, the vast majority of which pose no threats to our national interests. But the EAGLE Act would effectively block green card opportunities for people from those nations, as it concentrates employment-based visas in the hands of just two nations – one of which happens to be our most formidable global adversary.

Defeating the EAGLE Act is critical to maintaining a fair and diverse immigration flow, and preventing the birds of prey in Beijing from continuing to raid our strategic and intellectual nests.


Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller