Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Q&A: Visa Security

Jan 20, 2016

With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q: Which branch of government has the authority to regulate immigration?

A:  More than 200 years ago, the architects of our nation baked in the genius of our resilient republic with two founding charters of freedom. The U.S. Constitution establishes three branches of the federal government with separate and independent powers. Each branch provides a vital check and balance to ensure our system of self-government effectively and fairly serves the citizens of this country, “We the People of the United States.”  The U.S. Constitution grants the legislative branch with the authority to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” in Article I, Section 8. And for more than a century, the Supreme Court broadly has upheld the federal government’s exclusive authority to make and enforce the laws involving foreign affairs, including the flow and regulation of immigration. The federal government’s primary responsibility must be to protect the safety of American citizens and uphold the sovereignty of our borders. It is incumbent upon Congress to regulate the flow of immigration, uphold border security and protect the interests of American workers and taxpayers. 

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the country’s immigration policies and practices, I am looking into abuses within foreign student visa and temporary foreign worker programs that undermine the interests of U.S. workers and put public safety at risk. For example, I’ve called upon the Secretary of Homeland Security to reconsider plans to expand the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, a little known program created unilaterally by the executive branch that allows foreign students to work here. A federal audit by the Government Accountability Office found that the OPT program was “full of inefficiencies, susceptible to fraud, and the Department was not adequately overseeing it.”  And yet, the Obama administration wants to expand the program to allow foreign students to remain working in the United States for up to six years after graduation, despite failing to enact sufficient reforms.
Considering the emerging threats to national security, including the recruitment and radicalization of Islamic extremists, the Obama administration at a minimum needs to keep better track of these foreign students and, moreover, ensure that employers aren’t exploiting foreign students to drive down wages for U.S. workers.  The Constitution vests the president with the authority to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  Our system of checks and balances has been called into action with the president’s unilateral decision to defer deportation for up to five million undocumented immigrants and instead grant them work permits. Up to this point, a coalition of 26 states has succeeded in its lawsuit to put a stop to the executive overreach when the Fifth Circuit of Appeals agreed with a lower court’s injunction.  The U.S. Supreme Court in January announced it has added the case to its docket and likely will take up the appeal later this spring for a final decision.


Q:  Why is it so important to plug gaps in the foreign visa system? 

A:  Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress took steps to strengthen national and homeland security to keep citizens safe and keep terrorists out. That included beefing up requirements that would obligate foreign nationals between the ages of 14 and 79 to receive an in-person interview by an official with the U.S. State Department when applying for a visa to come to the United States. In this era of global uncertainty and radical Islamic extremism, it is important more than ever for the federal government to strengthen counter-terrorism tools and coordinate efforts at home and abroad among intelligence, military and diplomatic channels to stop the spread of radical Islamic extremism. It defies common sense for the federal government to water down laws enacted to improve national security. That includes visa security. That’s why I’m taking a close look at federal regulations that would weaken the screening process for visa applicants. It certainly appears to contradict congressional intent that stipulated foreign applicants would receive a personal interview before securing a visa to enter the United States. I’ll continue conducting robust oversight to ensure the executive branch faithfully and carefully executes the laws according to congressional intent. When it comes to national security, America must put the safety of U.S. citizens first.