Britain’s Prince Harry may have received “preferential treatment” when granted his U.S. visa, according to Nile Gardiner of The Heritage Foundation.
Harry, the Duke of Sussex, publicly admitted to drug use in his recent memoir “Spare,” but it’s not known whether the royal disclosed his drug use on his visa application, an admission that can slow the application process or result in its rejection.
The Heritage Foundation Oversight Project filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security asking for a copy of Harry’s application. The request was denied, so Heritage filed a lawsuit, arguing that it is in the public’s interest to know whether Harry lied or not on his visa application. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“Everyone should be treated equally before the law,” says Gardiner, who formerly served as a foreign policy researcher for then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and currently serves as the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation.
“U.S. immigration law should be applied forcefully and fairly, without any kind of favor given to individuals applying,” Gardiner said.
If the royal “lied on his application, that is a very serious offense,” he said. “That would be perjury.”
Gardiner joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain the significance of the legal fight and the possible reasons why DHS has been unwilling to release Harry’s visa application.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It is my privilege today to be joined by Nile Gardiner. Nile is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation and formerly served as the foreign policy researcher for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Nile, thanks for being with us today.
Nile Gardiner: It’s great to be here, Virginia. Thanks very much having me on the show.
Allen: Prince Harry, he lives in America now, specifically in California, and he acquired a visa in order to move to America with his wife Meghan Markle. But now The Heritage Foundation is questioning whether Prince Harry received special treatment in order to receive that visa from the Department of Homeland Security. And Heritage has actually filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to learn whether the royal did receive any special treatment.
So, Nile, why does Heritage suspect that Prince Harry might have received special treatment in his visa application process?
Gardiner: Those are great questions. And so, The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, which is headed by Mike Howell, has taken the Department of Homeland Security to federal court in order to secure the release of Prince Harry’s immigration application.
So it’s become a big court case, actually, a very high-profile case. It’s attracted immense interest on both sides of the Atlantic.
And the reason why Heritage has taken DHS to court is because we believe that there is a strong chance that Prince Harry received preferential treatment with regard to his visa application.
Now, Prince Harry admitted to a very extensive and widespread drug use in his memoir “Spare,” which was released earlier this year, back in January. It was a bestselling book. And Harry was very frank about his very widespread use of a whole range of illegal drugs.
And we are asking for accountability and transparency from the Biden administration, specifically from the Department of Homeland Security, with regard to Prince Harry’s application. We want to know whether or not Harry lied on his application and whether he was given some kind of special waiver by U.S. authorities.
Now, in many cases, applicants for a U.S. visa who admit to drug use are denied entry to the United States. In fact, there are a large number of cases like this. And therefore, whilst Prince Harry, because of his celebrity status, because of perhaps connections he may have in the United States, was he given some kind of preferential treatment?
It’s our view that everyone should be treated equally before the law. U.S. immigration law should be applied forcefully and fairly, without any kind of favor given to individuals applying. So we believe there is a very strong public interest, in terms of the release of Harry’s records.
And if Harry lied on his application, that is a very serious offense. That would be perjury. It would be a federal offense. And normally in those situations, individuals who have lied on immigration applications would be asked to leave the country.
The stakes are very high, certainly for Prince Harry. We do not know exactly what he put down on his immigration application. That’s why we’re asking for transparency, accountability from U.S. officials with regard to his application. And we believe there is a very strong public interest in the release of those records.
Allen: You have previously said that there’s three possibilities for that visa process and how it played out. You’ve answered one, that when asked on his application, “Have you used drugs before?”, there’s a possibility that Prince Harry lied. You’ve mentioned, though, there’s two other possibilities for the handling of that visa application. Could you explain those?
Gardiner: So, if Harry was honest and forthright, in terms of his application, then there should have been full scrutiny of that application. And so, if anyone who ticks a box saying they have used drugs, those individuals are subject to further interview, further questioning by U.S. authorities. So we want to establish whether that was the case.
So certainly, one possibility is that Harry may have lied on his application and not revealed the full extent of his drug use.
A second possibility is that he was fully honest with regard to his drug use, and there is the possibility that his application did not receive the full scrutiny it should have received.
I think there’s a third possibility, whereby, he fully disclosed what was on his application. There was some kind of scrutiny with regard to his application, but the U.S. authorities decided to just give him a pass.
And so, there are a number of different scenarios that could have taken place here. So we want to establish the facts with regard to his application.
And it’s absolutely unacceptable if Harry, if his application did not receive the scrutiny that it should have. It’s also unacceptable if he was given some kind of preferential waiver, when thousands of others have had their visas denied. It’s also unacceptable if he lied on his application. And if he did lie on his application, that is a perjury offense and that should result in deportation.
Allen: Now, The Heritage Foundation Oversight Project filed a Freedom of Information Act request, or a FOIA, in order to gain those records of his application. And the Department of Homeland Security denied that request. Why did they say they denied it?
Gardiner: DHS categorically have refused to release Harry’s immigration application, even though many individuals have had their immigration applications released publicly, if there is deemed to be a public interest. And so, there have been hundreds of cases where immigration records have been released in the past.
Now, DHS is arguing that they cannot release the records on the grounds of protecting Prince Harry’s privacy. They say he’s a private individual. They argue that his immigration record should not be released to the general public, in order to protect the privacy of somebody who has applied for a U.S. visa.
Now, in our view, Prince Harry is a huge public figure. He has spoken extensively about his drug use, not only in his own memoir, but also in a series of television interviews as well. Prince Harry is one of the most public figures in the world today. He’s a household name in the United States and across much of the world.
And so, to argue on the ground of privacy that his record should not be released, I think, is a ludicrous argument. Because he has been so open about his own drug use, and therefore, we are arguing that there is a public interest in knowing exactly what he put on his immigration application.
So, this argument about defending Prince Harry’s privacy is a ridiculous argument, is an example of stonewalling. It’s the refusal on the part of the Biden administration to act in an open and transparent manner.
They’re basically just parroting the talking points, which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have used in the past, about protecting their privacy. When, at the end of the day, they are two of the most public figures in the world, who have been extremely open about their own lives.
Prince Harry has been remarkably open about his drug use, illegal drug use, and therefore, we believe that his records, immigration application, should be open to public scrutiny. The American people should be able to see exactly what Prince Harry put down on his immigration records.
Allen: And to that end, The Heritage Foundation has filed a lawsuit in order to gain access to that information. Where does that lawsuit stand right now?
Gardiner: There was a federal court hearing in June, which was the first hearing to discuss Prince Harry’s immigration records case. That hearing was very detailed. It lasted about an hour and a half. Lawyers from The Heritage Foundation delivered evidence and lawyers on behalf of the Biden administration delivered evidence as well.
There will be a second hearing held, most likely in the fall. We do not have an exact date yet. There could be a whole series of hearings held. But this has become a big issue of public interest, and there will be at least one further federal hearing.
The judge presiding over the case made it clear that he’ll ultimately issue a ruling on the release of Prince Harry’s records, as to whether or not they should be released. So there will be a resolution to this issue.
And we are certainly fighting to win this case. And we believe that we have public opinion and the public interest on our side. A Newsweek poll came out recently. We showed that 54% of Americans support the release of Prince Harry’s immigration records.
This case has attracted a great deal of public attention. It has also resulted in a very significant media interest in the United States and the United Kingdom, and across the world, actually. In fact, it’s become a big public story.
So there’s intense public scrutiny of what is happening. And ultimately, this issue will be resolved in the federal court, in Washington, D.C. And so, the Biden administration can seek to stonewall all they like, but at the end of the day, this issue will be decided by a federal judge in a federal court here in Washington, D.C.
Allen: And Capitol Hill has gotten a little bit involved in this matter as well. Florida Rep. Greg Steube has introduced an act called the SPARE Act, which stands for Substance and Possession Abuse Restrictions for Entrance. But of course, the name is also a nod to Prince Harry’s book that you mentioned, “Spare.” But what is the SPARE Act? If you would just explain that for a moment.
Gardiner: Well, the SPARE Act, in essence, basically calls for the strict enforcement of U.S. immigration law. And it basically declares that anyone found to have violated immigration law, in terms of misleading statements, for example, over drugs, they should be dealt with under the full force of the law.
So, the legislation basically, in essence, calls for the enforcement of existing immigration law. And in my view, I think this is just the beginning of what is likely to be growing congressional interest in the Prince Harry immigration issue. And with good reason, the act is named the SPARE Act, recognizing Prince Harry’s admission of extensive drug use.
And Congressman Steube here is simply calling for the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, holding to account those individuals who may have lied on their immigration applications.
This is a very serious matter. And I’m in no doubt that we will see growing and intense congressional interest in the Prince Harry issue. In fact, there are already, I think, a number of U.S. senators who are interested in this case. It’s become a big media story.
And I think that we will see the floodgates opening, in terms of congressional interest in what is happening and members of Congress really calling for accountability and transparency from the Biden administration.
Allen: Nile, you still travel to the U.K. frequently. What is the public’s opinion in the United Kingdom of Prince Harry, and are they following this situation?
Gardiner: Yes, there is a lot of public interest in the U.K. in the Prince Harry immigration case. In fact, I was in London just a few weeks ago, and I spoke to several members of Parliament who were closely following developments.
I would say that the Prince Harry immigration case has attracted, not only intense public interests and media interests in the U.K., but also political interests as well.
And it’s a well-known case among members of Parliament in the U.K. And every single MP that I spoke to—and I spoke to dozens—were fully aware of this case, and were closely following it, and were eagerly awaiting news about further developments.
So, it’s attracted a lot of public interest in the U.K. It will attract more and more interests as the court case unfolds. And although I did hear some concerns expressed by people in the U.K. that the last thing they wanted was Prince Harry sent back to Britain—and so, there are people nervous in the U.K. of a return by Prince Harry.
But I would say this, if Prince Harry had to leave the United States, most likely he’d go to Canada or somewhere else, rather than the United Kingdom, where he’s very unpopular.
Harry and Meghan are deeply unpopular figures in Great Britain. They would not be welcomed over there. And so, if Harry did have to leave the United States, I think his most likely destination would be Canada, or France, or somewhere like that.
Allen: Fascinating. Well, Nile Gardiner, thank you so much for your time. We’re going to be following this case as it moves through the courts with the Department of Homeland Security. Thank you so much for your time today.
Gardiner: It’s my pleasure. Many thanks, Virginia.
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