A path to American citizenship has fewer political potholes in the wake of Saturday's unexpected announcement that key business and labor groups had reached an initial agreement on a guest-worker program.
The agreement was reportedly reached at the conclusion of a conference call between the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the President of the AFL-CIO. New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer acted as a mediator during the give-and-take.
Labor Unions have argued against guest-worker programs for decades, saying that a rapid influx of low-wage undocumented workers would take away jobs from Americans. Initial verbal agreement focused on new pay levels for low-skilled workers while providing some labor protections for American workers. The deal reportedly calls for something called a "W Visa," which would be used by employers to petition for lesser skilled, nonseasonal nonagricultural operations, such as hospitality, janitorial and construction jobs. The W Visa would then be used as a foundation for immigrants to seek permanent status after a year.
If all goes as hoped, the program could begin as early as April 1, 2015. Initially, 20,000 visas would be permitted. That figure would rise to 35,000 the following year, 55,000 in year three and 75,000 in the fourth year.
White House officials were briefed Saturday on the deal.