WASHINGTON — Big business and labor have struck a deal on a new low-skilled worker program, removing the biggest hurdle to completion of sweeping immigration legislation allowing 11 million illegal immigrants eventual U.S. citizenship, a person with knowledge of the talks said Saturday.
The agreement was reached in a phone call late Friday night with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue, and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who’s been mediating the dispute.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement, said the deal resolves disagreements over wages for the new workers and which industries would be included. Those disputes had led talks to break down a week ago, throwing into doubt whether Schumer and seven other senators crafting a comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill would be able to complete their work as planned.
The deal must still be signed off on by the other senators working with Schumer, including Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, but that’s expected to happen. With the agreement in place, the senators are expected to unveil their legislation the week of April 8. Their measure would 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.
It’s a major second-term priority of President Barack Obama’s and would usher in the most dramatic changes to the nation’s faltering immigration system in more than two decades.
The AFL-CIO and the Chamber, longtime antagonists over temporary worker programs, had been fighting over wages for tens of thousands of low-skilled workers who would be brought in under the new program to fill jobs in construction, hotels and resorts, nursing homes and restaurants, and other industries.