A deal between labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would allow undocumented immigrants the chance to apply for legal resident status as part of a new work visa program, CBS News reported on Saturday.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and chamber president Tom Donohue reached the agreement by phone late Friday night in a conference call with Sen. Chuch Schumer (D-NY), a member of the bipartisan "gang of 8" Senators who has been pushing for an overhaul of immigration policy in recent months.
The deal ABC News reported on Saturday boosts the chances of an immigration reform package the group hopes to introduce on April 8, when Congress returns from a two-week recess. A spokesperson for one of the members, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), said on Twitter, "Senate negotiators are making good progress on immigration reform, but we're not done yet."
The program would approve "W" visas for up to 200,000 workers a year, with the annual number monitored by a new federal agency. Participants would have the freedom to change employers and apply for U.S. resident status, neither of which they can do under current immigration law. The deal would also allow workers to make as much money as their trade pays in their location.
Update 5:44 p.m. EST: Immigration advocates are expressing early optimism over the proposed framework, while promising to monitor what happens after an actual bill is introduced, pointing out that the legal residency clause in the deal would put participants on the road to citizenship.
"We need to [see] not only what the final details are gonna look like in the legislative language, but what the final product is coming out of committee," said Cesar Vargas, a spokesperson for the DREAM Action Coaltion. "Republicans -- especially Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) are gonna be aiming to kill the bill."
[Image by Stephen C. Webster, via Flickr Creative Commons]