Durbin Introduces Legislation To Deny U.S. Visas To Those Who Undermine Free And Fair Elections

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin highlights bill following former President Bolsonaro’s presence in Florida after his supporters led attacks on Brazil’s government institutions

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, highlighted new legislation that he’s introducing today to deny U.S. visas to foreign government officials who undermine free and fair elections or democratic transfers of power.  The bill comes after former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro traveled to Florida to skip his successor’s inauguration and the subsequent attack on Brazil’s governing institutions by his supporters – the majority of whom had been repeatedly fed lies and misinformation by Bolsonaro recklessly aimed at discrediting the country’s electoral integrity.  The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). 

“America must never become a safe haven for anyone who assaults the values for which our nation stands: democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and the sanctity of free and fair elections.  We already deny visas to human traffickers, drug traffickers, money launderers, corrupt kleptocrats, and those who commit severe violations of religious freedom.  We have passed laws to allow for the prosecution in U.S. courts of anyone who has committed war crimes, or used children as soldiers in deadly conflicts,” said Durbin. 

“Today, I am introducing legislation to further align our immigration system with our values as a nation,” continued Durbin.  “My bill would prevent foreign officials who interfere with democratic elections or prevent the democratic transfer of power in their country from finding refuge in the United States.”

Durbin previously sent a letter to President Biden urging the Administration to review Bolsonaro’s U.S. visa and to ensure he can’t seek safe haven from accountability in the United States.

“After he fairly lost in October’s Presidential election, his supporters turned to violence, they blocked highways throughout Brazil.  Many called openly for the military to overturn the election.  And on January 8th, as he took selfies with supporters in Florida, thousands of his far-right supporters violently stormed Brazil’s Presidential palace, Congress, and Supreme Court, breaking windows and injuring dozens of police officers.  Sound familiar?  It was a disgrace — and an assault on democracy not only in Brazil, but an assault on democracy everywhere.” 

Under Durbin’s bill, if the Secretary of State determines a foreign official has interfered with a free and fair election, or sought to prevent the peaceful and democratic transfer of power, that official cannot escape justice by fleeing to the United States.

Durbin concluded, “I ask that we hold them accountable.  America should never be a safe haven for enemies of democracy.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.