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Monday, April 1, 2013

Immigration Deal Would Bring In ‘Guest’ Workers

photo
This 1950's photo shows Braceros leaving Chihuahua City, Mexico, for El Paso, Texas. (AP/University of Texas El Paso Special Collections Dept., File)Mexican migrant workers, employed under the Bracero Program to harvest crops on Californian farms, are shown working in the field, in this 1964 photograph. (AP)Mexican migrant workers, employed under the Bracero Program to harvest crops on Californian farms, are shown picking chili peppers in this 1964 photograph. (AP Photo)Charles Knight, Border Patrol Inspector of the El Centro, Ca., sector, checks the identification card of a legal Mexican farm worker on Imperial Valley tomato farm near the Calexico border in Aug. 1951. (AP Photo)

Big business and big labor have settled on a political framework for an immigration overhaul. Now, the lawmakers writing bipartisan legislation need to resolve the nitty-gritty – and keep their parties’ political flanks mollified.

Business and labor negotiators late last week agreed on a deal that would allow tens of thousands of low-skilled workers into the country and pay them fair wages. It was a last major sticking point before the deal goes to the eight senators – four Democrats, four Republicans – to sign off on the details and propose legislation. They are looking to set in motion the most dramatic changes to the faltering U.S. immigration system in more than two decades.

“There are a few details yet. But conceptually, we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves that has to be drafted,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The so-called Gang of Eight’s plan would provide a new class of worker visas for low-skilled workers, secure the border, crack down on employers, improve legal immigration and create a 13-year pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here.

Schumer negotiated the deal between Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka during a late Friday phone call. Under the compromise, the government would create a new “W” visa for low-skilled “guest” workers, who would earn the same wages paid to Americans or the prevailing wages for the industry they’re working in, whichever is higher. The Labor Department would determine prevailing wage based on customary rates in specific localities, so it would vary from city to city.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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