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Sen. Ernst Criticizes Biden for Allowing Loophole for Chinese Spies

Senator Joni Ernst (Credits: Military Times)

Senator Joni Ernst has openly criticized the Biden administration for what she perceives as negligence in addressing national security concerns associated with the visa waiver program that allows Chinese nationals to visit the U.S.-held Northern Mariana Islands without a visa.

According to Ernst, this policy could potentially expose the United States to risks of espionage, particularly given the proximity of these islands to vital military installations on Guam.

The visa waiver program, which was established in 2009 under discretionary authority by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), permits certain Russian and Chinese nationals to stay in the Northern Mariana Islands for up to two weeks without a visa.

President Biden (Credits: CNN)

Senator Ernst, in a November 30 letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, expressed her worries that the program could be exploited by Chinese spies, thus endangering U.S. military secrets and security.

The Department of Homeland Security has responded to these concerns by stating that it remains vigilant in its screening and vetting processes.

DHS official Zephranie Buetow emphasized that Chinese nationals are only permitted to visit the Northern Mariana Islands for short stays and are not allowed to travel to other parts of the United States, including Guam, from there.

Buetow noted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection actively prevents onward travel of these individuals to other U.S. destinations and denies entry to high-risk travelers when necessary.

President Joe Biden (Credits: The White House)

Representative Neal Dunn, who co-signed the letter with Ernst, also voiced his concerns, comparing the potential risks of the visa waiver program to the broader challenges faced by DHS at the U.S. border.

Dunn argued for the necessity of a stricter visa requirement, such as a B-1/B-2 visa, to better control and monitor entries into U.S. territories, thereby deterring potential espionage activities by the Chinese Communist Party.

The ongoing debate highlights the tension between maintaining open diplomatic and tourist channels and safeguarding national security, particularly in geopolitically sensitive regions. The situation calls for a careful evaluation of visa policies to ensure they strike the right balance between openness and security.

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