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Chamber and Labor agree on Immigration framework

This is good news for those of us who believe that immigration reform can provide much-needed certainly for the US economy and provide a real boost.

Labor and business representatives have met for the last several months to find a way to create a legal system for bringing foreign workers into the country for low-wage jobs such as restaurant and home-care work. That would greatly reduce the incentive for illegal immigration, supporters argue.

Under the new proposal, companies that could not find U.S. workers would be allowed to hire foreign workers. Those workers would enter the country under a newly created program of immigrant worker visas. Companies would have to advertise jobs to Americans first.

The agreement calls for creating a federal expert bureau that would make recommendations on the number of foreign workers allowed into the country each year. The recommendations would be based on unemployment data and other information about labor market conditions in particular industries.

The agreement involves a trade-off. For the first time, the AFL-CIO agreed to support establishing a temporary guest-worker program for low-skilled labor.

The Chamber of Commerce agreed that the number of workers admitted under the new visa would expand and contract with the economy. In addition, the visa would not tie a worker to a particular employer, a step designed to protect workers from the threat that they could be deported if they had a dispute with their boss. Workers would also receive protections on wages and working conditions. At least some of the temporary workers would be allowed to eventually apply for green cards, which would give them lawful permanent residence.

The chamber also signed on to a long-standing labor demand that an independent entity – the new expert bureau – have the authority to study labor data and recommend curtailing work visas when unemployment is high. The bureau would have “political independence analogous to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” said to a joint statement released Thursday by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Thomas J. Donohue.

The bureau would make recommendations, but it would then be up to Congress to set visa numbers, as it does now.

This is something we don’t see much in Washington – real compromise. Perhaps the Republicans in Congress will now change their tune a bit if the Chamber gets behind reform.

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