With China continuing to crack down on Hong Kong, two Florida Republicans on Capitol Hill are backing a new proposal to let protesters enter the U.S. as refugees.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the “Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act” this week with the support of U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., Bob Menendez, D-NJ, Jeff Merkley, D-Oreg., and Todd Young, R-Ind. The bill “would provide those Hong Kongers who peacefully protested Beijing’s corrupt justice system, and have a well-founded fear of persecution, to be eligible for Priority 2 Refugee status” and is in “response to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) actions to implement its Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
Besides granting Hong Kong protester Priority 2 Refugee Status, the bill would also waive immigration intent for non-immigrant visas and let refugees who have their citizenship revoked by the Chinese regime stay in the U.S. The bill would end in five years.
“The world witnessed the courage of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, who last year took to the streets to defend their autonomy from China’s authoritarian grip,” Rubio said on Tuesday. “Following last night’s implementation of Beijing’s National Security Law, the U.S. must help Hong Kongers preserve their society at home and find refuge for those who face persecution for exercising the rights once guaranteed under the Joint Declaration. Through the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, our nation would offer a safe-haven to many Hong Kongers who have tirelessly fought against tyranny.”
“As the people of Hong Kong continue to face Beijing’s tightening grip on their autonomy, freedoms and basic human rights, the United States must hold its torch high and proud for the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Menendez said. “We are introducing this bipartisan legislation to reiterate to the Chinese Communist Party that we stand resolutely with Hong Kong and its residents, and we will ensure they don’t fall through the cracks of our broken immigration system just because they were forced to flee for standing up for their rights.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House with the support of a host of cosponsors from both sides of the aisle including U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who leads Republicans on the U.S. House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee.
“The United States has been and will continue to be, a country that welcomes the oppressed and mistreated from brutal authoritarian regimes. The people of Hong Kong were guaranteed freedoms and liberties that are now being taken away by a communist regime that has experienced neither. Communism cannot survive where free thought is allowed,” said Yoho on Tuesday. “It is our country’s moral obligation to provide a safe haven for these people, and I am honored to stand with my colleagues in Congress in supporting the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act to provide that pathway. They will be welcomed to join and assimilate into America as so many successful ethnic groups have.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary Committees.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.