Sunday, July 24, 2005
CAFTA and Immigration
CAFTA undermines immigration laws
By: TOM TANCREDO - Commentary
Congress will soon take up the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which many see as an extension of NAFTA and a precursor to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas that would convert all of North and South America into one integrated market.
Opinions about CAFTA's impact on the regional economy vary widely among members of Congress based largely on what the agreement will do for their constituents. But in the rush to highlight who wins and who loses when these trade barriers come down, almost everyone has overlooked the troubling non-trade provisions that are tucked into the voluminous document.
CAFTA would do more than just phase out tariffs and open new markets ---- a lot more. For example, buried among its nearly 1,000 pages, the agreement contains an expansive definition of "cross-border trade in services." This definition would give people in Central American nations a de facto right to work in the United States. CAFTA is more than a trade agreement about sugar and bananas. It is a thinly disguised immigration accord.
The immigration provisions are cloaked as "service agreements" in the document that have become standard fare in most trade agreements.
One article of CAFTA reads, "Cross-border trade in services or cross-border supply of services means the supply of a service ... by a national of a party in the territory of another party." CAFTA goes on to stipulate that member nations take care to ensure that local and national "measures relating to qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards and licensing requirements do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade in services," and to guarantee that our domestic laws are "not in themselves a restriction on the supply of the service."
What those provisions mean is that a foreign company would be empowered under CAFTA to challenge the validity of our immigration laws. If an international tribunal rules against us, Congress would then be forced to change our immigration laws or face international trade sanctions. These tribunals have the authority to rule that U.S. immigration limits, visa requirements, or even licensing requirements and zoning rules are "unnecessary burdens to trade" that act as "restrictions on the supply of a service."
This hidden legislation to open the U.S. border is only the beginning.
The chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees most international trade matters, believes that these kinds of immigration provisions are fair game for future trade deals as well.
If CAFTA were really just about trade, the agreement would be little more than a few pages long, declaring that tariff treatment for U.S. and Central American goods will be on a reciprocal basis. But it isn't. In reality, CAFTA is about expanding a growing body of international law that supersedes our own.
If CAFTA is approved, Congress' "exclusive" authority to regulate immigration policy will be subjugated to the whim of international tribunals and trade panels ---- in much the same way that Congress' once supreme constitutional authority to "regulate commerce with foreign nations," has already been largely ceded to the WTO.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., is a member of the House International Relations Committee.