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Business, labor reach immigration deal on guest workers. Will it stand?

The US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO have reached a deal on guest workers as a part of comprehensive immigration reform. That was a major issue, but more remain including border security and a pathway to citizenship.

By Staff writer / March 31, 2013

Several southwest Michigan pastors along with immigrant families and members of the general public take part in a pray-in for immigration reform outside US Rep. Fred Upton's office in downtown Kalamazoo on Friday.

Matt Gade/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group/AP


A major speed bump on the path to comprehensive immigration reform appears to have been removed. That’s the issue of guest workers – low-skilled immigrants who come to the United States under a temporary visa program.

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Over the weekend, senior business and labor representatives came to an agreement on how many such workers could enter the US each year, what jobs they could hold, and what the pay scale would be.

The agreement was reached in a phone call late Friday night with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, US Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) of New York, who's been mediating the dispute, reports CBS News.

By Sunday morning, senior lawmakers of both parties were confirming that a deal had been reached, and that this was an important step toward reform – including how to address the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US today.

"I think we've got a deal,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We've got to write the legislation, but 2013, I hope, will be the year that we pass bipartisan immigration reform.”

"It will pass the [Republican-controlled] House because it secures our borders, it controls who gets a job … [and] the 11 million [undocumented immigrants] will have a pathway to citizenship, but it will be earned, it will be long, and it will be hard," Senator Graham said.

Graham and Senator Schumer are members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators working to achieve immigration reform.

 “I am very, very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “[Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick] Leahy has agreed to have extensive markup and debate on the bill in April, and then we go to the floor in, God willing, in May. So I think we're on track. This is a major, major obstacle that's overcome.”

Another member of the Gang of Eight – Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida – issued a more cautionary statement Sunday morning.

“I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers,” he said. “However, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.”

Senator Rubio then laid out what he sees as the legislative road ahead:

“We have made substantial progress, and I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met. However, that legislation will only be a starting point.


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