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Energy Policy Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I thank my friend from Utah for letting me do this.

I rise in support of the resolution offered by our colleague from Alabama, Senator Sessions. I have always been a supporter of free-trade agreements, as long as those free-trade agreements were fair.

My State has been a huge beneficiary of trade agreements. We are a strong economic factor in the United States. We want to continue to be, and we will continue to benefit from trade agreements as long as those agreements are fair.

But there is a problem here tonight with the two agreements we are going to be voting on—the agreements with Singapore and Chile. We are in very difficult economic times in this country. As a result of those difficult economic times, we have seen unemployment in this country reach the level of 6 percent, and actually now a little above 6 percent. My State has suffered just as every other State around the country with our fair share of those unemployed individuals.

Part of the displacement of those individuals is due to the immigration policies we have in effect in our country today, which allow people from other countries who want to come to America to work. We have always had an open-door policy, and we should continue to have an open-door policy, welcoming people from other countries to come to the U.S. to improve the quality of life for them and their families.

At the same time, with that open-door policy, we should not have a policy that displaces American workers when the American workers want and need the jobs they are losing because of individuals coming into this country.

As chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the Judiciary Committee, I held a hearing this week on one of our visa programs. It is called the L-1 program whereby individuals can come into this country on a visa from anywhere around the world and be put in a position that supposedly is not being used to displace an American worker.

As we found out at our hearing this week, it is happening over and over where the situation in the system is being taken advantage of, which results in abuses of that program that has the effect of displacing American workers.

We are going to hold another hearing in that subcommittee in September on the H-1B program. This has been a very valuable program to our country and particularly the high-tech industry that needed, during the nineties, an increase in the caps under the H-1B program to accommodate the technicians they needed to operate their businesses successfully.

What we found is that these individuals who come in under the L-1 and H-1B programs are being paid at lower rates than American workers they are displacing. With the slowdown in the economy and with the increase in unemployment, we are seeing that those H-1B and L-1 visa individuals who are coming into the United States are maintaining their jobs while Americans have been displaced. In part because of the abuses, the Americans, having been paid at a higher rate, are losing their jobs, and that is not right.

Lo and behold, with an agreement that is supposed to be an economic stimulus creating trade with Chile and Singapore, what do we see but the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative negotiating as a part of these agreements with Chile and Singapore a policy change in our immigration law which now allows some 5,400 individuals from Singapore, and 1,400 individuals from Chile per year, over and above all of the limits which are presently in place under H-1B, L-1, and L-2, and every other visa program we have in place, to come into the United States with no provision in these trade agreements for any kind of attestation that these people will not be allowed to come in from Singapore and Chile if they are displacing American workers. That is not right. That is also not the function of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

It is the function of the U.S. Congress to set policy when it comes to the immigration laws of this country. We should not allow the U.S. Trade Representative to usurp that power and that authority which is given to Congress.

I rise tonight in strong support of the resolution offered by Senator Sessions. I think we need to send a shot across the bow telling the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that we are not going to let him usurp the authority and the power that is given to the Congress of the United States by law in our immigration policy. It is our obligation to set that policy and not the obligation of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

I have very grave concerns about these two agreements. I understand there are other agreements that are already being negotiated that have these same provisions in them. It was never the intention of any of us who voted to grant fast-track authority to the administration that the administration would be allowed to set immigration policy. It is wrong and it should not happen. Therefore, I strongly support the resolution of the Senator from Alabama.

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