The Controversy over Immigration and New Trade Authority

Stuart Anderson, Forbes, May 12, 2015

A controversy has emerged about whether granting the president Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) would result in expanded immigration. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), chair of the Senate’s immigration subcommittee, has written, “There are numerous ways TPA could facilitate immigration increases above current law–and precious few ways anyone in Congress could stop its happening.”

To negotiate international trade agreements, a U.S. president needs Trade Promotion Authority. TPA allows a president to finalize an agreement and put it before the U.S. Congress for an up-or-down vote. Without such authority, other countries would not conclude trade agreements with the United States, since amendments in Congress could scuttle the terms of previously agreed upon measures. {snip}

Several holes exist in the theory that granting Trade Promotion Authority will increase immigration. First, Trade Promotion Authority is not the final step in the legislative process. After an international agreement is negotiated, Congress must approve the agreement via implementing legislation. There is no evidence that including immigration provisions in an agreement would gain any votes in Congress. In fact, it appears more likely to lose votes, given at least some members antipathy towards immigration. Given that passage of any trade agreement is not guaranteed it would make no sense for the Obama Administration to attempt to “slip in” immigration provisions.


The Obama Administration has made a specific commitment not to include in a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement any provisions to expand immigration to the United States, including via temporary entry. In a letter to Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, U.S. Trade Representative Michael B. G. Froman wrote,

I appreciate your writing to me, and welcome the opportunity to clarify that the United States is not negotiating and will not agree to anything in TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] that would require any modification to U.S. immigration law or policy or any changes to the U.S. visa system.

Going back on that commitment would lose votes in Congress.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) wrote a recent Dear Colleague letter to House members affirming that concerns about immigration provisions becoming part of an upcoming trade agreement are misplaced. “Whatever other countries participating in the TPP negotiations agree to regarding temporary entry, the U.S. will not be a signatory,” noted Goodlatte. “There is nothing in the current draft of the TPP that will in any way advance or facilitate this or any other unconstitutional action by the Administration.”


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  • The flaw in this Forbes analysis (hard to believe that Peter Brimelow was once this publication’s Editor-in-Chief) is that Congressional votes on immigration are now irrelevant, with the President’s pen and phone being almighty.

    Only two members of the Senate have claimed to have read this TPP turkey, Jeff Sessions and Mike Lee, and both are voting no.

  • Worse than that, some NAFTA proponents told us that it would reduce illegal immigration.

  • JackKrak

    The US has added about 80 million people in my lifetime and I’d guess that around 70 million of them didn’t spend their childhood exposed to my culture, my language, my society, my way of doing things, etc. and yet now I’m supposed to just smile and stand by while they recreate the hellholes they left behind to come to my country.

    Tell me, Democrats, is there any amount that will ever be “enough”?

    • LeonNJ

      As long as the Elephants and Donkeys live in their white gated communities and send their kids to private school nothing will change.

  • JohnEngelman

    Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) will increase the volume of “the giant sucking sound” Ross Perot warned us about in 1992 of well paying jobs leaving the United States.

    • ShermanTMcCoy

      Are there any left?

      • JohnEngelman

        Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
        Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
        They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
        Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown

        – Bruce Springsteen, from “My Hometown”

  • Wigglesworth

    I don’t believe any of them. I want to read the bill.

    • Well then, you better have a letter of recommendation from your fourth grade teacher, submit to a TSA pat down, and a Secret Service background check. Well, maybe not, but the White House is closely guarding this thing for some odd reason.

  • Bossman

    The Japanese prime minister apparently doesn’t know anything about that. I heard him say on his recent visit that the TPA will mean free passage of goods, services and people.

  • SentryattheGate

    There is a separate bill in the House, HR 213, which would eliminate all numerical quotas per sending country of “high-skill” immigrants. And I don’t believe the Forbes article; the TTP & TTIP would allow for the free mobility of workers worldwide=NO BORDERS!

  • Hilis Hatki

    TPA… it has electrolytes.

    • ShermanTMcCoy

      I particularly enjoy it with my “Bigass Fries!”

  • WR_the_realist

    If the mass media is telling us that the TPA won’t expand immigration then we know for certain that it will.

  • John Smith

    Every piece of legislation is so complex and full of loopholes and riders as to constitute a Trojan Horse. Seldom do those voting on them ever read them.

  • Roninf9

    I automatically assume that anything heavily promoted by the Corporate Media and/or the GOP Establishment/Democrat Party will be a total screw job and a disaster for the American people. The longer the promotion the bigger the scam. For example, gloBULL warming has been flogged to death by the Corporate Media and Uncle Scam decades and we all know that is a mulit-Trillion dollar shakedown. The TPP is a catastrophe for the American worker and anyone that promotes it knows this and is therefore the worst kind of traitor.

    • Lexonaut

      “I automatically assume that anything heavily promoted by the Corporate
      Media and/or the GOP Establishment/Democrat Party will be a total screw
      job and a disaster for the American people. The longer the promotion
      the bigger the scam.”

      I’m with you. That’s why these days at other sites I preface many of my posts with …

      … “True conservative here. Not a D, no longer an R, certainly not an L.”

  • Xerxes22

    Paul Ryan said we have nothing to worry about. There is no immigration provision in this bill. It is just another urban legend. We all know what that means.

  • Eagle1212

    Here’s a solution, detain and deport all 50 million illegal alien invaders, arrest and jail any employer who knowingly hires them, also send the military down the border, add surveillance on the fence and slam the border shut. We already had too many of these leeches here in this country destroying it and causing financial distress and suffering on American citizens thus ruining our quality of life, both sides of the aisle are to blame for this mess that we’re in. Enforce our immigration laws now.

  • mobilebay

    Another giant sucking sound.

  • Light from the East

    Let me summarize what TPA is all about. In short, trade promotion authority (TPA) is the authority the president can negotiate international agreements while Congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend and filibuster term by term. That is, TPP becomes a whole, fixed package for Congress to accept or deny, no rooms for flexible revisions. Based on my observation, it simply shows 2 things:

    1. Since TPA reduces the power of Congress, Obama have more room on the issue of TPP and he seeks to increase his power as usual.
    2. Obama wants to do something big in his final term, competing China’s RCEP. He has no patience to wait for Congress check TPP term by term.

  • This wants us to believe that the Senate can turn down “trade” agreements that have immigration clauses. Remember, though, the United States Senate in 2013 voted 68-32 for the Gang Bangers of Eight bill, and trade bills usually rack up 70-something Senate votes.