Congress is considering new legislation that would require President Donald Trump to sanction any foreign government official involved in holding Americans hostage, a move that would prevent these foreigners and their family members from obtaining U.S. visas, according to congressional sources working on the bill.
Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) are spearheading the new legislation, which they say will apply needed pressure on any foreign government complicit in the taking of American hostages. A key mechanism in the legislation would ensure that foreign officials involved in hostage taking and their families do not enter the United States.
Many foreign officials and their family members from Iran, China, and other rogue nations routinely travel to the United States for lavish holidays and education at U.S. colleges. The lawmakers are seeking to crack down on this behavior.
Cruz recently found himself at the center of a diplomatic standoff with Tehran after it banned him and prominent Trump administration officials from traveling to Iran. Cruz, at the time, proposed legislation to reciprocate the ban, saying that the family members of prominent Iranian regime figures should not reap the benefits of the American education system.
Cotton and Cruz are frustrated by what they see as foreign officials from rogue regimes taking advantage of American opportunities while U.S. citizens languish in captivity.
"If you're in the business of kidnapping Americans, you shouldn't be able to send your kids to American universities or take lavish vacations in the United States," Cotton said in a statement on the new bill. "My bill would punish those who hold Americans hostage by sanctioning their assets and blocking their travel to the United States."
"Across the globe brutal regimes and terrorist groups seize Americans and use them as hostages, hoping to receive concessions from the United States," Cruz said in a statement. "We shouldn't give them that hope. To that end, our bill imposes sanctions on all those who engage in hostage taking of American citizens and legal permanent residents, and bars their family members from entering the United States. This is a battle I have been waging throughout my service in the Senate, including keeping out diplomats appointed by the Iranian regime who seized our hostages in 1979."
The new legislation would mandate that the White House issue sanctions on foreign officials complicit in the abduction and imprisonment of U.S. hostages.
It would also deny U.S. visas to any hostage takers and their family members, and create a mechanism for Congress to require the president to initiate a review of individual foreign officials involved in hostage taking to see if they would be eligible for American sanctions.
"If you take an American hostage, your children should not be able to attend liberal arts colleges in the West," said one congressional aide working on the new bill.
The bill comes on the heels of the 40th anniversary of Iran seizing American hostages after its hardline regime rose to power.
"The regime took hostages then and continues to do so today, and authoritarian governments are copying this playbook," the official said.