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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.

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“We will need a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments. Eight senators from seven states have worked on this bill to serve as a starting point…. But arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people’s consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren’t part of this initial drafting process. In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.”

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Schumer acknowledged the challenges in changing an immigration system that has major economic, political, and social implications across the country.

“As Senator Rubio correctly says, we have said we will not come to final agreement till we look at all of the legislative language,” he said on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “And he's correctly pointing out that that language hasn't been fully drafted. There'll be little kerfuffles. But I don't think any of us expect there to be problems."

The other members of the gang of eight senators are John McCain (R) and Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona, Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois, Bob Menendez (D) of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado. 

Immigration reform is one of President Obama’s top priorities, and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was kept informed of the business-labor negotiations on guest workers by Schumer, who facilitated those discussions.

“The president continues to be encouraged by progress being made by the bipartisan group of senators,” White House spokesman Clark Stevens said in a statement Saturday. “We look forward to seeing language once it is introduced, and expect legislation to move forward as soon as possible.”
Even if the group of senators reaches a deal, the legislation faces a tough battle, The Wall Street Journal notes. A bipartisan group in the House is working on its own immigration effort. Some Republicans there have been critical of any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the US today.

Here are some details on the weekend agreement as reported by Politico:

Employers would be required to pay either the prevailing wage in the area of employment or the actual wage level received by individuals with similar experience and qualities – whichever is greater.

The size of the program would ramp up over time, from 20,000 visas in the first year to 75,000 in the fourth year. In the fifth year, the program would shrink or grow based on the unemployment rate, the ratio of job openings to workers seeking employment, and other factors. The cap can never go below 20,000 or above 200,000 in any year.

To resolve the standoff with the construction unions, the deal includes a cap of 15,000 visas for certain higher-skilled professions in their industry.

The visa holders could petition for permanent status after a year, and they would not be tied to a single employer.


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