June 30, 2010


Trade And Immigration Are Not Separate Issues: Legislative attempts to restrict skilled workers from entering the U.S. could violate key international trade agreements. (Stuart Anderson, 06.30.10, Forbes)

As President Barack Obama attempts to jumpstart immigration legislation, a new controversy is brewing. The reason is many people assume trade and immigration are separate issues. They’re not. Even in the U.S. Congress and at federal agencies, few officials realize that under a trade pact signed by the U.S. government in 1994, the U.S. risks trade retaliation if it fails to admit, within certain limitations, high-skilled foreign nationals to work in America. This 1994 trade pact stands like a roadblock on the highway for members of Congress who seek to enact new curbs on foreign-born professionals, researchers and scientists. Will influential U.S. senators attempt to run it? [...]

Sen. Bernard Sanders. I-Vt., recently attempted to attach his anti-immigration bill, S. 2804, as an amendment to tax legislation. The Sanders bill goes well beyond the job-specific layoff restrictions in the U.S. commitments under the GATS. It would prohibit any new work visa (and even the termination of existing ones) if during the previous 12 months a company filed a layoff notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. For larger companies, closing down an unprofitable facility with 50 or more employees can easily trigger such a notice.

Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have also produced legislation, S. 887, which would institute a variety of changes to H-1B and L-1 visa law. It would require a higher wage to be paid to H-1B and L-1 visa holders than under current law, issue new rules on H-1Bs and layoffs, and prohibit new H-1B and L-1 visas for employers with more than 50 percent of their workforce in H-1B or L-1 status.

Enforcement mechanisms of trade treaties exist to save us from our basest impulses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2010 5:26 PM
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