Business, labor get deal on worker program

  • Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013 12:01 a.m.
Several southwest Michigan pastors along with immigrant families and members of the general public take part in a pray-in for immigration reform event outside of Representative Fred Upton's office in downtown Kalamazoo on Friday, March 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group, Matt Gade ) ALL LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL TV INTERNET OUT

WASHINGTON — Big business and labor have struck a deal on a new low-skilled worker program, removing the biggest hurdle to the completion of sweeping immigration legislation allowing 11 million illegal immigrants eventual U.S. citizenship, labor and Senate officials 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 has been mediating the dispute.

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, but that is expected to happen, according to a person with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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.

The bill would usher in the most dramatic changes to the nation’s immigration system in more than two decades.

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