Major Hurdle to Immigration Bill Cleared

12:29 AM, Mar 31, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON - Labor and business officials have reached an agreement on a visa program to bring in up to 200,000 foreign workers a year to do janitorial, hospitality, retail and construction work, the AFL-CIO said Saturday.

The agreement would create a new "W-Visa" for the low-skilled workers and a new Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research to make recommendations on changes to the number of visas the country gives out each year.

The compromise between officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor union, clears one of the biggest hurdles facing legislators negotiating a sweeping immigration bill that would legalize the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, strengthen border security and change the way the U.S. grants visas in the future.

"We have created a new model, a modern visa system that includes both a bureau to collect and analyze labor market data, as well as significant worker protections," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. "We expect that this new program, which benefits not just business, but everyone, will promote long overdue reforms by raising the bar for existing programs."

Bipartisan groups in the Senate and House who have been writing their own bills are hurrying to file their bills in early April, and President Obama has supported their efforts to move quickly on the complicated topic.

One of the biggest sticking points in the talks has been how much the foreign workers would be paid. Labor officials have been fearful that low salaries paid to the foreign workers would bring down wages for American workers.

Ava Avendaño, the AFL-CIO's director of immigration and community action, said the two sides agreed that the foreign workers would be paid the higher of the prevailing industry wage, or the actual wages paid by the employer to other workers with similar experience and qualifications.

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