Steel’s bill would stop espionage by foreign adversaries at U.S. colleges, universities

Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) would direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to designate foreign intelligence threats to higher education in America and would empower the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security to initiate removal proceedings against agents of such operations.

“This legislation will ensure any bad actors seeking to infiltrate academia to influence our youth and spy on sensitive research projects are quickly and decisively expelled,” Rep. Steel said last week. 

The Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act of 2023, H.R. 1146, which Rep. Steel sponsored on Feb. 21 with two Republican cosponsors, aims to counter foreign espionage and influence efforts such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-funded Confucius Institutes at American colleges and universities, according to a bill summary provided by the congresswoman’s staff. 

If enacted, H.R. 1146 also would improve transparency by requiring disclosure of foreign gifts and contracts at institutions of higher education, the summary says. 

“The CCP is actively engaged in efforts to spy on American citizens across every industry, field, and institution, including our college campuses,” said Rep. Steel. “We must combat these threats wherever they arise. College campuses should be places that foster academic freedom and sound, unbiased, research — values that the CCP seeks to undermine. 

“The CCP is the greatest threat facing the United States today, and the continued presence of their Confucius Institutes on American campuses is very concerning,” she added.

H.R. 1146 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House committees on Judiciary; Education and the Workforce; and Foreign Affairs.