Republicans and Democrats aren’t the only ones who have to resolve major differences in coming to an agreement on how to reform the U.S. immigration system.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, it turns out, are having their own problems coming up with a consensus on how to handle visas for foreign workers, according to Politico, an online Website that covers national politics.
Politico said that both groups –which were to hash out an agreement to help drum up support for the bipartisan Senate immigration proposal released in January– are at a worrisome impasse after two months of discussions. And all signs point to the two major stakeholders missing a Friday deadline to come up with a plan, the Web site said.
The story noted that the disagreements over whether and how to make guest workers a part of immigration reform helped doom a similar effort in Congress to pass a measure in 2007.
“It’s like we’re speaking different languages,” Politico quoted an anonymous source as saying. “We’re very far apart. It’s hard to see us coming to any sort of agreement.”
Sources told the publication the Chamber/AFL-CIO effort was almost sure to fail.
Though guest workers were a part of the Senate proposal, it was not part of the plan President Obama unveiled, much to the consternation of Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio, who is from Florida and is a key member of the bipartisan group, known as the Gang of Eight.
Historically, unions have been leery of guest worker programs, expressing concern about how they could depress wages for American workers, and give immigrants jobs that – with the high unemployment in the United States – Americans desperately need.
Business groups, on the other hand, have tended to favor guest workers programs, arguing that many industries depend on foreign labor because U.S. workers either lack the skills or the interest to do such jobs.
The Politico story said that senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) met with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Chamber CEO Tom Donohue in December, and enlisted them to come to an agreement that would provide a framework for the guest worker component in any future Senate immigration reform bill.
Some of the questions the Chamber and the AFL-CIO were grappling with were how many workers should be admitted each year, the salary and whether they should have an opportunity to turn their work visas into U.S. permanent residency.
“Our goal is to hammer out an approach that responds to documented labor shortages backed up by real labor market data, rather than rely on the word of any employer claiming he or she cannot find an American worker,” said the AFL-CIO’s Ana Avendano, according to Politico. “Given persistent high unemployment, it is especially crucial to ensure that any new program ensures that American workers have a real first shot at new job opportunities.”