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Deal on New Guest Worker Program Clears Path For Immigration Reform

Monday, April 01, 2013

One issue at the center of the immigration debate is how to create a new visa program that will allow low skilled immigrants, who work in restaurants, hotels, construction, and other industries to come into the US legally.

Pitted against each other have been old rivals;businesses represented by the US Chamber of Commerce and the labor unions. They disagreed over how many immigrants should be allowed to enter the US annually and how much these workers should be paid.  After weeks of negotiations, an agreement was finally reached.  A new “W” visa for low-skilled immigrants will be introduced as a part of comprehensive immigration reform.
    
“This is bipartisan recognition that we need a program like this," said Tamar Jacoby, the president of ImmigrationWorks USA, an organization that advocates for immigration reform on behalf of businesses.

“Immigrant workers have been keeping afloat several vital industries in this country, from hospitality to construction to cleaning and maintenance to food processing to food service.”

Under the agreement 20,000 immigrant workers will be allowed to enter the US in the first year. That number will grow to 75,000 in the fourth year, and will be capped at 200,000 annually. The new program allows employers to bring in workers for positions they say Americans don’t want, but the deal also satisfies the labor unions.

Andrea Zuniga DiBitetto, a legislative representative for the AFL-CIO, says their goal was to make sure wages paid to immigrant workers didn’t bring down wages for U.S. workers.

“If the average wage in this industry is like around for example, $27,000, we want the worker that’s coming in to be paid around that so to make sure that wage level is protected for similarly employed workers,” she said.

Immigrant workers who come on new visas will have to be paid the actual wage or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher.

“It’s important to make sure that the wages paid to the people brought in on a visa do not hurt the wages of the workers in the same shop, in the same city, in the same industry,” DiBitetto said.

Immigrant workers will also be able to change employers and eventually apply for green cards. It doesn’t mean all sides are walking away from the deal entirely happy. Some business groups say the number of visas is not sufficient and that it’s problematic that high-skilled construction workers are excluded from the program.

But the eight senators who've been working on drafting a comprehensive immigration bill say the agreement between the Chamber of Commerce and the unions removes what was a significant obstacle on the road toward reform. They’re expected to present their proposal next week.

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Comments [2]

David

Wigglwagon, you're a typical american that does not have a single clue how the country operates. You're saying fine employers for having illegal workers yet no american will be willing to do the work that mexicans do. I agree that reform is much needed, but you do not penalize the small man trying to make a living. Then you say two years in jail? How dumb, why do you think they want to be here anyways? When they might be making 10-15 dollars a day in mexico, so picking fruit, harvesting vegetables, cutting tobacco for 8 dollars an hour or more. I can assure you they do not care about "jail in america" when being in jail here is like a luxury compared to normal living conditions in mexico. I wish that every american complaining about how the mexicans need to be gone would be put in the job positions the mexicans hold. They would shut up real quick. Many americans need a good slap to the face and realize if the mexicans leave, america would collapse in less than a couple weeks.

May. 05 2013 10:09 PM
wigglwagon

Any proposed reform that does not include mandatory jail terms for employers of illegal aliens will be a complete failure just as the '86 Amnesty was a failure.

Every day that an illegal alien is allowed to work is another day that taxpayers are forced to support a law abiding family that was forced into unemployment and poverty when the illegals under bid the legal workers for jobs.

The penalty for employers of illegal workers should be mandatory $15,000 fine per illegal worker and mandatory 2 years in jail without parole per illegal worker. That and deportation of the illegal worker would put an immediate end to the problem.

That is ALL the reform we need.

Apr. 01 2013 09:58 PM

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