NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stealth Immigration

August 1, 2003

Should trade treaties be used to regulate U.S. immigration policies? That's the question critics are asking about the two new trade pacts the Bush Administration signed this spring with Chilean Foreign Minister Soledad Alvear and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

With little public discussion, the White House agreed to create new visa categories to allow thousands of professionals from each country to work in the United States. The result could be a vast influx of foreign professionals from many low-wage nations, competing with American citizens for high-paying jobs, say Paul Magnusson and Manjeet Kripalani.

While the typically secretive nature of trade talks has obscured many details about the new visas, some specifics have come out:

  • The pacts call for a new professional visa category that would allow as many as 6,800 college-educated workers to enter the United States each year -- 1,400 from Chile and 5,400 from Singapore.
  • They could fill virtually any service-sector job in industries such as finance, engineering, medicine, and law.
  • The visas also could be renewed annually with no limit, meaning they essentially would give immigrants open-ended permission to settle in the United States.

Supporters of the new visas argue that developing nations will fill many of these jobs one way or another. If the U.S. can't import people, then jobs will just be exported from the U.S., says Kiran Karnik, president of NASSCOM, India's largest software-industry association. U.S. employers also say they stand to benefit.

Although it's rarely acknowledged, trade deals today involve substantial rewriting of social and economic policy. For that reason, they're too important to be railroaded through Congress, say the authors.

Source: Paul Magnusson and Manjeet Kripalani, "Is a Stealth Immigration Policy Smart?" Business Week, July 21, 2003.


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