The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest labor federation in the country, reached an agreement on a guest-worker program on March 29, meaning that a final bill is now in the works of being written and agreed upon.
The bill will include an earned pathway to U.S. citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, increased border security and ways for businesses to meet the need for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers.
“With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved,” New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ according to Reuters. “We’ve all agreed that we’re not going to come to a final agreement until we see draft legislative language and we agree on that.”
After much conflict between business and labor, legislature expects there to be a final draft of the new immigration bill so all eight senators in the group can review it.
“There are a few details yet,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ program, according to Reuters. “But conceptually we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves that has to be drafted. It will be rolled out next week. I think we’ve got a deal.”
However, there are still a few issues to work out between legislature before the bill can be drafted. One of these issues is cost. That is, the price of securing the border is expensive. People involved in the talks are hopeful that the cost can be balanced with increased visa fees. But Republicans are more concerned about the burden undocumented workers could put on the nation’s entitlement structure, or the massive costs that are absorbed officially into the nation’s new healthcare system. The GOP is considering demanding that language be inserted into any bill to make it clear that 11 million new immigrants cannot get added onto the nation’s social safety net. Legislature calls this procedure a “pathway to status.”
This pathway to status could take more than two decades to reach, which is another source of debate among members of the Senate. According to Politico, under the House plan, it would take more than 10 years to get a green card, and the process requires paying back-taxes . Undocumented immigrants would also have to gain proficiency in English.
Some republicans said that a pathway toward U.S. citizenship would create “amnesty,” and attract even more undocumented immigrants into the United States.
However, some have voiced confidence that the “earned pathway” toward citizenship that they drafted will attract Republican support.
“I hope that we can pull some Republicans our way,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona told Reuters. “I think a number of them are with us already.”
Another problem that has caused some bumps in the road towards an agreement is the issue of a guest-worker program, which would include a new “W visa” for employers to petition for foreign workers in lesser-skilled, non-seasonal and non-agricultural occupations. Some fear that this would cause a huge boost in low-wage immigrants moving to the U.S. and taking away jobs from American citizens.
Still, after almost four years of debates over the immigration reform, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said the senators had made “substantial progress” on a deal.
“I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers,” Rubio said in a statement issued by his office. “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.”