Senate Appropriations Committee Members
September 4, 2003
During the Appropriations Committee deliberations on H. R. 2799÷the Commerce, State, Justice Appropriations bill÷Senator Diane Feinstein will offer an amendment to restrict the ability of the USTR to create entire new visa categories for the temporary entry of professionals in trade agreements. The 25 national unions of our organization which collectively represent some 4 million professional and technical workers strongly urge your support for her amendment.
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that ãCongress shall have the power·.to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization·ä In other words, the legislative authority to shape immigration law is well understood to be explicitly reserved to the legislative branch of the federal government. Well understood by everyone except the Office of the U. S. Trade Representative.
Without any advance consultation with Congress, the USTR embedded with the recently-approved Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements new and potentially dangerous policy initiatives in the area of U.S. immigration law. At a time when hundreds of thousands of U.S. professional and technical workers are jobless and looking for work, the USTR seized Congressional authority over immigration law to create new professional guest worker programs in each agreement
Initially the guest worker provisions in the two agreements contained few meaningful safeguards that Congress had included in other long-standing guest worker programs. Push back, principally from key Senate and House Republicans and Democrats resulted in the adoption of a host of corrective measures that better reflect current law. Yet in the final analysis, these new programs contained even fewer protections for U.S. professional workers than the existing the H-1B visa program.
The negotiation of temporary entry provisions in trade agreements is a blatant usurpation of Congressional authority over immigration measures. The Singapore and Chile agreements are already being touted as templates for future agreements, and they may be just the beginning of a broader erosion of the immigration laws that have been crafted by Congress. Senator Feinsteinâs amendment would re-assert Congressional authority over this important area.
No logical argument can be made for the necessity of including new guest worker programs in these trade agreements. Congress should therefore send a clear an unequivocal message to the USTR that they have crossed the line; that an Executive branch agency had no business meddling in immigration law and that negotiation of immigration law into these trade agreements is an unacceptable violation of constitutionally-mandated separation of powers. Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee can send that message by voting to approve the Feinstein amendment. I urge you to do so.
Paul E. Almeida,
President, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO