Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free-trade agreement, Congress could lose the power to control immigration policy. We could find ourselves back in the era before there were restrictions on immigration and anyone from anywhere could come to our shores. And Republicans, from leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner on down, are unwittingly helping President Obama achieve this goal.
The TPP, generally supported by pro-free-trade Republicans but opposed by labor-union Democrats, reportedly contains a barely noticed provision that allows for the free migration of labor among the signatory nations. Patterned after similar provisions in the treaties establishing the European Union, it would override national immigration restrictions in the name of facilitating the free flow of labor.
The draft treaty, now under discussion among 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Vietnam and Japan, makes provision for needed labor to move across national boundaries without restraint. While much of the commentary on the deal has been focused on high-skill, white-collar migration, it could easily be interpreted as allowing farm workers and others to flow back and forth without legal regulation.
In seeking approval of the TPP, the Obama administration has proposed giving it fast-track authority to conclude trade deals a power that would restrict Congress's ability to amend the deal, allowing only an up-or-down vote. Led by Republicans, the Senate is moving toward passage of the fast-track authority as a precursor to ratification of the TPP treaty, immigration provisions and all.
Democrats are staging a last-ditch stand against the bill, which their labor allies condemn as the worst trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of the 1990s, pointing to the potential loss of jobs. But Republicans are using their majorities to grant Obama fast-track authority.
It is odd, indeed, to see Republicans falling all over themselves to reward this president with more power while voluntarily reducing congressional oversight. At the very least, one would assume the TPP would give the GOP-led Congress bargaining power to force Obama to backtrack on amnesty for illegals and possibly on ObamaCare. But far from forcing concessions, Republicans are lining up in support of fast-track and, by implication, the TPP.
Because foreign treaties are the "law of the land," according to the U.S. Constitution, any provision governing our borders and the flow of immigrants could not be overridden or even modified by Congress. A new president would be able to reverse Obama's amnesty plan but not the open-border provisions of the TPP. The treaty could lead to the effective repeal of the specifically enumerated power granted to Congress in Article I of the Constitution to regulate immigration and naturalization.
While the treaty is still being negotiated, the current focus on white-collar immigration would be sufficiently elastic to allow open borders. For instance, what is white collar compared to blue collar? Are we going to set an income limit on immigration?
Curtis Ellis, executive director of the American Jobs Alliance, calls the trade deal "a Trojan horse for Obama's immigration agenda" on The Hill's Contributor's blog. He notes that "one corporate trade association says bluntly that 'The TPP should remove restrictions on nationality or residency requirements for the selection of personnel.' "
In his seventh and eighth year, every president worries about his legacy and tries to control events in the future. But here Obama is enshrining in a treaty that cannot be repealed or amended an open-border immigration policy for all time.
Those who say he would never carry the treaty's provisions that far have only to ask themselves this question: Would Obama extend his powers to their maximum limit? Of course he would. Don't give him the power.