Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley pressed the Department of Homeland Security Thursday over its withdrawal of a rule proposed by the Trump administration to require U.S. schools to disclose their partnerships with Confucius Institutes, which the Republican says the Chinese government uses as a “propaganda tool” within the U.S.
“Withdrawing the rule is cause for serious concern and weakens our ability to detect and deter foreign influence efforts by the communist Chinese government,” Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“DHS must explain whether it will re-submit the rule and what steps it has taken to detect and deter communist Chinese government influence activity within our academic environment,” wrote Grassley.
On Jan. 26, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a component of DHS, withdrew a rule proposed by the Trump administration on Dec. 31, 2020, entitled, “Establishing Requirement for Student and Exchange Visitor Program Certified Schools to Disclose Agreements with Confucius Institutes and Classrooms.”
The proposal would have required K-12 schools and universities to disclose any financial ties to Confucius Institutes.
Around 500 K-12 schools and 65 universities have partnerships with the institutes, which say they promote cultural exchange and language programs in U.S. schools.
A spokesperson for ICE confirmed to the DCNF that the agency had withdrawn the rule, which was submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a component of the Office of Management and Budget.
The spokesperson declined to speculate on whether the administration will reintroduce the rule.
Grassley asked Mayorkas whether DHS plans to resubmit the proposal, and whether the agency considers Confucius Institutes to be extensions of the Chinese communist government.
“It’s extremely concerning that the Biden administration has withdrawn the proposed rule that would have required schools to disclose their relationship with Confucius Institutes,” the senator said.
Grassley and other U.S. officials have said that the Chinese communist government uses Confucius Institutes to push pro-Beijing propaganda into American schools.
He said that his staff has received classified briefings laying out threats from the Chinese government, as well as Confucius Institutes.
“U.S. Government agencies, including within the Intelligence Community, have clearly asserted that the communist Chinese government uses Confucius Institutes embedded in our academic institutions as a propaganda tool within the United States.”
Grassley said that Confucius Institutes operate under the direction of the Office of Chinese Language International, known as Hanban, which in turn is part of the Chinese Ministry of Education.
“The activities of Confucius Institutes are inherently political in nature and intended to influence U.S. policy and public opinion.”