President Barack Obama, left, and his staff issued congratulations to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, right, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after they announced Thursday that they had agreed on a way to create a guest worker program allowing U.S. companies to hire immigrant workers while enforcing basic principals on immigration designed to protect U.S. workers. (Photo : Reuters)
In a huge step forward towards fixing the U.S. immigration system, business and labor leaders have apparently ironed out the basic outline on a compromise for a new system that can bring low-skilled workers to U.S. borders.
After weeks of negotiations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, one of the most influential labor groups in the nation, came to an agreement on the principles of a new system that could bring over foreign workers to U.S. companies quickly. The principals were announced Thursday.
The two sides came together at the behest of the bipartisan group of senators, known as the "Gang of Eight," who are working on legislation that would bring about comprehensive immigration reform.
Under the agreement, the two sides have agreed to three principals regarding fixing immigration. First, American workers should have the first opportunity at all jobs.
Second, both sides agree that a new visa should be created that does not keep all workers in a permanent temporary status, and automatically adjusts as the U.S. economy grows and shrinks.
And the third principal calls for a new professional bureau that would recommend how many foreign workers should be allowed into the country each year based on unemployment data and other labor market conditions.
In exchange, the ALF-CIO agreed to support creating a temporary guest-worker program for low-skilled workers. Those workers would also receive protection on wages and working conditions and some of those laborers would be eventually allowed to apply for permanent Green Cards granting them permanent residency.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue issued a joint statement regarding the deal.
"The principles we released today represent our good faith efforts to continue to work together to achieve comprehensive immigration reform," the statement read. "The fact that business and labor can come together to negotiate in good faith over contentious issues should be a signal to Congress and the American people that support for immigration reform is widespread and growing, and is important to our economy and our society. This is an urgent national priority and Congress should act accordingly."
The Obama administration, which has been pushing to make immigration reform a serious issue in the last month, issued a statement praising the two sides for coming to an agreement key towards fixing the broken immigration system.
''This is yet another sign of progress, of bipartisanship, and we are encouraged by it,'' White House press secretary Jay Carney said, according to the Boston Globe.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the bipartisan senate panel working on fixing the immigration laws, called the announcement ''a major step forward.''
Among Republicans, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) applauded the deal, calling it "a positive step on immigration reform."
However, not all Republicans were on board, as the L.A. Times reports, with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., whose home state has adopted tough immigration laws similar to Arizona, disagreeing with the new compromise.
"The chamber's primary goal has never been to establish a lawful immigration system and secure our borders, but to get as much cheap labor as possible, regardless of how it impacts American workers, legal immigrants and taxpayers in general," said Sen. Sessions.