Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Durbin-Graham Bipartisan Election Interference Bill

DETER Act would block threats like Russians who Putin sent to the U.S. to interfere with our electoral processes

WASHINGTON—The Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved the bipartisan Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes (DETER) Act, which will prevent foreign regimes from exploiting our immigration laws to advance their efforts to undermine our democracy.  Introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in April, this bill will make “improper interference in U.S. elections” a ground of inadmissibility and deportability under U.S. immigration law, and violators would be barred from obtaining a visa to enter the United States and could be deported if they are in the U.S. 

“In 2016, Russia committed an act of cyber war against our country, and Congress has a responsibility to take action to prevent Russia’s efforts to influence and disrupt future elections,” Durbin said.  “Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee took an important step by advancing my bipartisan DETER Act, the first bill responding to Russian election interference to be considered by the Committee.  Our bill would prohibit foreigners who improperly interfere in our elections from coming to the United States to further their schemes, and bar them from entering our country in the future.  I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Graham to get this bill over the finish line.” 

“As we saw in the 2016 elections, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is attempting to strike at the very heart of the democratic values, freedoms, and liberty all Americans hold dear.  By barring foreigners who improperly interfere in our elections from coming to the United States, the DETER Act sends a message to hostile nations across the world that the United States will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections,” said Graham.

The DETER Act is a response to threats like those revealed by Special Counsel Mueller’s indictment of Russians who traveled to the United States with the explicit purpose of learning more about American political and electoral processes and how they could interfere with such processes.  The indictment describes how two of the thirteen individuals gathered intelligence during a three-week trip in June 2014.

According to the indictment, the individuals “falsely claimed they were traveling for personal reasons.”  While in the United States, the individuals traveled to Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and New York “for the purpose of collecting intelligence to inform the [Internet Research Agency’s] operations.”  A third individual attempted to travel to the United States, but did not receive a visa, and an additional co-conspirator, who is not listed in the indictment, traveled to Atlanta in November 2014.

The bill defines “improper interference in United States elections” as conduct by an alien that (1) violates federal criminal, voting rights, or campaign finance law, or is under the direction of a foreign government; and (2) interferes with any general or primary Federal, State, or local election or caucus, including the campaign of any candidate; or any ballot measure, including an amendment, bond issue, initiative, recall, referral, or referendum.