Prospects for a law to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants brightened on Saturday after major business and labor groups reached an agreement on a guest-worker program, a source familiar with the deal said.
The agreement was reached on Friday night in a conference call between the head of the Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, and the president of the AFL-CIO labor organization, Richard Trumka, with New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer acting as the mediator, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A guest-worker program has been a major stumbling block to efforts by a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight to reach a compromise on a way to create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, most of whom are Hispanics.
Labor unions have argued against a guest-worker program, worrying that a flood of low-wage immigrant laborers would take away jobs from Americans. The agreement covers the pay levels for low-skilled workers and provides labor protections for American workers.
Under the deal, a new “W Visa” would be created for employers to petition for foreign workers in lesser skilled, non-seasonal non-agricultural occupations. This could include jobs in hospitality, janitorial, retail, construction and others.
The W Visa would not be considered a temporary visa as workers would have the ability to seek permanent status after a year, according to details of the agreement released by the AFL-CIO.
The program would begin on April 1, 2015, unless there is a need to extend the start date by six months.
At the beginning, 20,000 visas would be permitted and the figure would rise to 35,000 visas the following year, 55,000 in the third year and 75,000 in the fourth.
The cap can never be below 20,000 or above 200,000 in any year.
The agreement still must be approved by the Gang of Eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans. If, as expected, they do so, a broad new immigration bill would be advanced in the Senate in the coming weeks.