TN visa used to import Mexican aircraft mechanics
TN visa used to import Mexican aircraft mechanics
Date: Friday, June 19, 2009 2:54 AM
<<<<< JOB DESTRUCTION NEWSLETTER No. 2029 -- 6/19/2009 >>>>>
At its core, NAFTA was less a trade pact than a political,
immigration, and investment agreement.
Pat Choate, "Dangerous Business", 2008
A Dallas, Texas TV station (WFAA) did an excellent news report recently. In
it, they tell how NAFTA TN visas were used to replace 100 American airline
mechanics with cheaper ones from Mexico. It all happened at a company called
San Antonio Aerospace (SAA).
This newsletter has discussed the TN (Trade NAFTA) visa many times. It is used
to import the same types of foreign professionals as H-1B, except that the TN
visa has far less protections for Americans, and the number of visas is
unlimited from Canada and Mexico. It's a recipe for disaster!
I wrote a paper in 2003 about TN visas. Nothing has changed since then so you
can read about it here:
Embedded Visas by Rob Sanchez, Social Contract Press, 2003
The WFAA research and investigative journalism is first class, and the video
report on their website is stunning and very scary. My only problem with the
article is that they blamed what happened on loopholes in NAFTA.
After close examination I just don't think the loopholes they allege exist.
Let me explain:
For starters, NAFTA doesn't have a loophole to allow mechanics, and even AILA
"In order for an occupation to qualify as a "Scientific
Technician/Technologist" under NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1, the position must
involve the use of principles of science, research and development, and/or
scientific observations and calculations. (This is from the DOL job
description.) The position must be in direct support of a professional in one
of the sciences. The position must primarily include activity consistent with
the support of a science professional. (This is from NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1,
footnote 5.) The technician who assists the engineer in the lab to design and
develop a new technology may qualify as a scientific technician, but the
mechanic who repairs and maintains that same technology after it s built and
used in everyday life, is not a scientific technician. From AILA InfoNet Doc.
No. 08022774 (posted Feb. 27, 2008)."
At first glance even the text of the NAFTA agreement would seem to prohibit
mechanics from using TN visas. NAFTA has a list of professionals that can get
a TN visa in "Chapter Sixteen: Temporary Entry for Business Persons."
The professional titles are extensive and each one is defined. Scientific
Technician/Technologist is defined as follows:
"Possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following
disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry,
engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics; and (b)
the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the
ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied
Footnote 5: "A business person in this category must be seeking temporary
entry to work in direct support of professionals in agricultural sciences,
astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics,
meteorology or physics."
It's difficult to see how NAFTA would allow aircraft mechanics to get the
designation of "Scientific Technician", but that's exactly what SAA did.
So, how did they get away with it? As usimmigrationblog describes the
the Scientific Technician / Technologist and Management Consultant
categories are prone to abuse by ineligible applicants and are
therefore scrutinized more heavily by the CBP officers.
Of course that leads to the next question: what is a CBP officer? In short,
they are border patrol agents who get promoted to officers. Most importantly -
- THEY ARE NOT LABOR EXPERTS! Look at it this way -- CBP officers have spent
most of their careers risking their lives to enforce border laws, and to catch
illegal aliens, so it's just not realistic to expect them to be able to be
able to split hairs over highly technical job descriptions -- even if they
have received several hours of training on how to do so. If you have any doubt
about the difficulty go to Chapter Sixteen (link below) and see if you could
So, the loophole isn't in the NAFTA agreement as much as the implementation,
which in turn a result of intentional lack of enforcement and review by the
United States government. Keep in mind that the pressure is on the CBP officer
to approve the visa, and if he/she denies it the refusal could be construed as
a violation of NAFTA, and at the very least they may be subject to review by
their bosses. Under the circumstances a CBP officer would be masochistic to
deny the TN visa.
To show just how difficult it could be for CBP officers, just consider that
flight engineers and mechanics are often mentioned together. Take this job
description from a career website:
Before a flight, the flight engineer inspects the outside of the
plane to make sure there are no fluid leaks and that tires are
inflated properly. If any problems are found, the engineer calls
in mechanics to repair the plane.
Based on that description, the CBP officer should approve visas for airline
mechanics. Your eyes are probably glazed over by now with NAFTA legalese, but
go back to "Footnote 5" of the NAFTA text and you will understand why a CBP
officer might choose to approve the visa. In this case a TN visa could be
justified for airplane mechanics. In order to deny this type of visa would
require a very in-depth knowledge of the airline industry. It's quite unlikely
that many CBP officers have this expertise.
There is no way the Mexican mechanics are as good as the Americans they
replaced, but they probably are a lot cheaper. We need only three words to
describe what the result of this type of corporate globalism means: CRASH,
BURN, and DIE!
Please excuse me for evil thoughts, but if an airplane crashes because of
those substandard Mexican mechanics, my wish is that all of the architects of
NAFTA chartered the plane so that they could go to a WTO meeting or a DOHA
Loophole allows for easy immigration for aircraft mechanics
NAFTA TN Visa - Scientific Technician / Technologist
North American Free Trade Agreement, Chapter Sixteen: Temporary Entry for
Customs and Border Protection
Flight Engineer Job Description, Career as a Flight Engineer, Salary,
Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training
Requirements, Getting the Job
Dangerous Business: The Risks of Globalization for America by Pat Choate
Loophole allows for easy immigration for aircraft mechanics
10:29 AM CDT on Wednesday, June 17, 2009
By BYRON HARRIS / WFAA-TV
NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
June 16th, 2009
Byron Harris reports
There are more than 100,000 American aircraft mechanics who are out of work or
who have left the business.
But aircraft repair is flourishing in the United States for mechanics from
Mexico, who can enter the country through a loophole in the NAFTA trade
The loophole is called a TN visa, and it s big enough to drive an airliner
News 8 has discovered more than 100 mechanics from Mexico have been recruited
by San Antonio Aerospace (SAA) at a time the company is laying off higher wage
The workers are being brought in as "scientific technicians." Although that
part of the NAFTA agreement was designed to allow professionals, such as
doctors and lawyers from Canada and Mexico, work in the United States, the law
also permits people who are "licensed" to enter the country.
"If they re licensed in Mexico, and if they re a licensed mechanic, it s
possible that they could be considered a professional,'" said Michelle
Scopellite, a Dallas immigration attorney.
Documents obtained by News 8 from some of the Mexican mechanics who received
TN visas do not indicate they were licensed anywhere. They show the workers
may have gone to aircraft repair school in Mexico. The FAA does not recognize
foreign aircraft repair licenses. To get into the United States, however, a
mechanic must only convince an officer from the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that his paperwork means that he
is a professional.
"In immigration there are several loopholes because of the way an application
is drafted it s up to the officer s discretion," Scopellite said.
The FAA does not require an aircraft mechanic to be certified in the U.S.
to work on an airplane. It only requires that a U.S. certified mechanic sign
off that the repairs done by others had been done correctly.
The problem with many Mexican mechanics is not necessarily their skill level,
but that they don t speak or read English. They can t read the repair manuals
that are in English, or communicate with the supervisors who have to sign off
on their work.
"I would work with these guys sometimes and I was assigned a couple of
mechanics," said one certified American mechanic who used to work for SAA.
"I would help them out. But, when it came to critical issues such as operation
of flight control and systems and radio correspondence, I would refuse."
The former employee said the Mexican mechanics were working on structural
repairs, as well as complex electronics inside aircraft belonging to Delta
Airlines and UPS at SAA.
Former NTSB member John Googlia said having 100 non-English speaking mechanics
working in a shop would be unacceptable.
"That many people who can t read or write or understand English is
disruptive," he said.
Googlia himself is a certified mechanic.
"The normal work flow is going to be disrupted because you can t communicate
with them," he said. "So, yes, that is a safety issue. And, where is the FAA?"
For the last several months, SAA has been laying off American mechanics. At
the same time, SAA president Moh Loong Loh told the San Antonio Chamber of
Commerce last week that his company "faces a shortage of skilled workers,"
according to the San Antonio Express News .
In a written statement, Loh told News 8 his company is "an equal opportunity
employer." He did not respond to questions about foreign workers.
Immigration attorney Scopellite said once an aircraft worker comes into the
United states, his visa could be renewed for three year periods an unlimited
amount of times. And, if U.S. authorities were not notified, "somebody could
come in working for one person and USCIS and the Department of State would
have no clue."
She said she is in no position to know whether the process represents a threat
to national security.
"I ve had people call me and tell me they ve gotten in here without fully
disclosing their credentials," she said.
The government granted 88,000 TN visas last year, according to USCIS. It does
not track how many went to aircraft mechanics. But, the number of TNs is
expanding, and there is no limit to how many can be issued.
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