Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa





Grassley Statement on Immigration at Trade Promotion Authority Mark-Up

Apr 22, 2015

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Finance Committee
Mark-up of Trade Promotion Authority
Grassley Amendment #1
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mr. Chairman,

I want to mention the amendment I filed to the TPA bill.  While I do not intend to ask for a vote on this today, I do want to reiterate my concerns about trade agreements containing immigration provisions.  

Even before I became Chairman of the Judiciary Committee --- in fact, when I was Chairman and Ranking Member of this very committee – I opposed previous administration’s attempts to include immigration provisions.  I demanded that the Judiciary Committee be consulted on anything related to immigration.  

Despite opposition from Congress, USTR included immigration provisions in trade agreements with Chile and Singapore in 2003.    Since then, consultations with the Judiciary and Finance Committees have taken place.  But, these consultations are merely consultations and they do not provide a mechanism for ensuring that changes to our immigration system aren’t included.  

When Ambassador Froman was before this committee last week, I specifically asked him about immigration provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership.  He told us that they are not negotiating anything in TPP that would require any modification of the U.S. immigration laws or system.  He told us that the eleven other countries are making offers to each other in the area of temporary entry, but that the U.S. has decided not to do so.

While that is reassuring, it doesn’t stop this administration or future administrations from negotiating immigration or visa changes without Congress.  That is why I filed my amendment today.  I want there to be no doubt that Congress does not condone any negotiation of our immigration laws or changes in our visa systems.  That is Congress’ responsibility.  

I do not intend to require a vote on this today because Chairman Hatch and I sent a letter to USTR Ambassador Froman. We stated that Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization,” and the Supreme Court has long found that this provision of the Constitution grants Congress plenary power over immigration policy.  We said that, for many years, Congress has made it abundantly clear that international trade agreements should not change, nor require any change, to U.S. immigration law and practice.  We asked Ambassador Froman for assurances that TPP will not include provisions that require changes to U.S. immigration law, regulations, policy, or practice.

Ambassador Froman responded and gave us his assurances.  He acknowledged that there is a chapter on the temporary entry of persons, but that this chapter only includes “good governance provisions on transparency with respect to visa processing and cooperation on border security.”  He also said that this chapter includes commitments of other TPP parties to make information on requirements for temporary entry publicly available.  The U.S. already is very transparent about our processes and visa requirements, and already processes visas as expeditiously as possible.  

In addition to the letter from the Ambassador, the Chairman has agreed to work with me on language that will be included in the accompanying report to make it clear that Congress does not condone USTR negotiating immigration or visa provisions.  

While I will not offer my amendment today, I will keep the option open to offer this amendment on the floor, if necessary.  

Thank you.