Bor­der se­cu­rity hard-liner keeps im­mi­gra­tion out of NAFTA deal

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

Rep. Steve King, a cru­sader against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, has emerged as the un­likely cul­prit block­ing Pres­i­dent Trump from a crack­down on Mex­ico’s bor­der jumpers in the rene­go­ti­a­tion of NAFTA.

Mr. Trump has re­peat­edly tied the is­sues to­gether, say­ing he will scrap the 25-year-old North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment un­less Mex­ico does more to stop the flow of peo­ple headed north across its ter­ri­tory.

But a 2015 law Mr. King helped au­thor, in­tended to pre­vent Pres­i­dent Obama from boost­ing im­mi­gra­tion as part of trade pacts, is pre­vent­ing Mr. Trump from us­ing trade deals to re­duce the im­mi­gra­tion rate.

Mr. Trump’s prime mo­ti­va­tion in tack­ling NAFTA is to cor­rect what he calls a bad trade deal. It was a top cam­paign prom­ise to stop the ex­o­dus of U.S. fac­to­ries and man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs to low-wage Mex­ico.

As the talks en­ter the fi­nal stages, Mr. Trump has in­creas­ingly mixed the im­mi­gra­tion and trade is­sue, de­spite re­stric­tions on ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity to make trade deals.

“Mex­ico is do­ing very lit­tle, if not NOTH­ING, at

stop­ping peo­ple from flow­ing into Mex­ico through their South­ern Bor­der, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb im­mi­gra­tion laws. They must stop the big drug and peo­ple flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!” he tweeted this month.

Any im­mi­gra­tion agree­ments be­tween the U.S. and Mex­ico can’t be in the trade deal, in­clud­ing re­duc­ing the num­ber of guest worker visas or cre­at­ing ar­range­ments for im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

Mr. King, Iowa Repub­li­can, said he was glad that his pro­vi­sion stopped Mr. Trump from putting im­mi­gra­tion pro­vi­sions in NAFTA, even though he agrees with the pres­i­dent’s tough im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

“There are other ways to do im­mi­gra­tion — not through trade,” Mr. King told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “The pres­i­dent can throw any­thing into the ne­go­ti­a­tion that he chooses, but when they write a treaty, they can’t be writ­ing ‘im­mi­grate’ into that treaty be­cause my lan­guage pro­hibits it.”

He said he did so to pro­tect Congress’ con­sti­tu­tion­ally enu­mer­ated power to write im­mi­gra­tion law.

Mr. King warned the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion when the NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion talks opened last year that im­mi­gra­tion couldn’t be part of the deal.

In a let­ter to U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer, the con­gress­man cited the lan­guage he tacked onto the Trade Fa­cil­i­ta­tion and Trade En­force­ment Act of 2015, also known as the cus­toms bill, that says trade agree­ments “do not re­quire changes to the im­mi­gra­tion laws of the United States or ob­li­gate the United States to grant ac­cess or ex­pand ac­cess to visas.”

Mr. King stressed in the let­ter that he was rais­ing the is­sue out of con­cern that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would seek to grant more visas, specif­i­cally the “TN visas” for tem­po­rary pro­fes­sional work­ers that cit­i­zens of Canada and Mex­ico can get un­der NAFTA.

He would pre­fer to have the TN visas stripped from NAFTA in the re­write.

The re­stric­tion, in­cluded in a pack­age of leg­is­la­tion grant­ing the pres­i­dent fast-track trade au­thor­ity, was orig­i­nally aimed at Mr. Obama as he pre­pared to ne­go­ti­ate the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

The deal, known as TPP, was a 12-na­tion agree­ment among the U.S. and Pa­cific Rim coun­tries that pro­po­nents said would act as a counter to China.

U.S. trade ne­go­tia­tors have often used guest worker visas and other im­mi­gra­tion con­ces­sions as bar­gain­ing chips in cut­ting trade deals.

A 2008 bi­lat­eral trade agree­ment be­tween Viet­nam and the United States shielded from de­por­ta­tion cit­i­zens of that com­mu­nist coun­try who came to the U.S. be­fore 1995. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to can­cel that ar­range­ment to de­port thou­sands of Viet­namese who are le­gal U.S. res­i­dents but not cit­i­zens and have crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, ac­cord­ing to Reuters.

In 2015, there were fears that Mr. Obama would al­low TPP to open a flood­gate for high-tech work­ers and other pro­fes­sion­als to come to the U.S. Mr. King’s leg­is­la­tion pre­vented it.

As it turned out, one of Mr. Trump’s first ac­tions as pres­i­dent was to rip up TPP, which he said was an­other bad trade deal that would ship Amer­i­can jobs over­seas.

Michael Ca­munez, the for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Mex­ico who helped im­ple­ment the orig­i­nal NAFTA, said the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue — even if not part of the deal — could blow up the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“The pres­i­dent is an­tag­o­niz­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions with his tweet­ing and his bom­bas­tic rhetoric,” he said. “He is try­ing to threaten and bully the Mex­i­cans in a way that I don’t think they are go­ing to ac­cept.”

Mr. Ca­munez added, “The out­come de­pends on one man and one man only, and that is Don­ald Trump.”

Any agree­ment for Mex­ico to step up im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment on its side of the bor­der would have to be out­side of NAFTA, said Jes­sica Vaughan, di­rec­tor of pol­icy stud­ies at the Wash­ing­ton-based Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies.

“It would have to be a side agree­ment or an un­der­stand­ing. I can’t see that it is ac­tu­ally go­ing to be part of NAFTA,” she said. “The TN visas could be up for rene­go­ti­a­tion be­cause that is a pro­vi­sion of NAFTA. But these other is­sues such as en­force­ment mea­sures and how to deal with asy­lum seek­ers and things like that — those are not trade is­sues.”

The pres­sure Mr. Trump has ex­erted on the gov­ern­ment of Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto has al­ready paid off.

Mr. Pena Ni­eto’s gov­ern­ment re­cently in­ter­vened against a car­a­van of about 1,000 mi­grants headed for the U.S. bor­der, pro­vid­ing tran­sit and hu­man­i­tar­ian visas that helped re­duce the size of the car­a­van.

Mex­i­can of­fi­cials in­sisted they were not bow­ing to pres­sure from Mr. Trump.

“There is no way the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment can es­cape the per­cep­tion that they took ac­tion on the car­a­van be­cause of be­ing prod­ded by Trump,” said Ms. Vaughan. “They never would have stepped in to head off the car­a­van with­out Trump draw­ing at­ten­tion to it. It just wouldn’t have hap­pened.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Repub­li­can, says im­mi­gra­tion is­sues do not be­long in trade deals, in­clud­ing the rene­go­ti­ated North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

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