After news broke that an agreement between business and labor was finally reached regarding comprehensive immigration reform, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement today:
The labor movement has no higher priority in 2013 than to build a workable immigration system that will allow 11 million aspiring Americans to become citizens. Each day we have become more encouraged that our goal is in reach, and quickly. Each day we hear from working people of every background that we need a fair system that lifts up everyone.
The strength of the consensus across America for just reform has afforded us the momentum needed to forge an agreement in principle to develop a new type of employer visa system. We have created a new model, a modern visa system that includes both a bureau to collect and analyze labor market data, as well as significant worker protections. We expect that this new program, which benefits not just business, but everyone, will promote long overdue reforms by raising the bar for existing programs.
But a new visa program is only a small part of our campaign to build a common sense immigration system. Mass deportations are a moral and economic crisis. The senseless thwarting of DREAMers’ efforts to live the American dream is a crisis. And we are leading a national campaign for reform that addresses these crises.
From making sure citizenship for the 11 million is achievable not only in theory, but in fact, to maintaining family unity, the labor movement’s immigration campaign is just getting started.
The Associated Press provided details about the new visa system:
Under the emerging agreement between business and labor, a new “W” visa program would bring tens of thousands of lower-skilled workers a year to the country. The program would be capped at 200,000 a year, but the number of visas would fluctuate, depending on unemployment rates, job openings, employer demand and data collected by a new federal bureau pushed by the labor movement as an objective monitor of the market.
The workers would be able to change jobs and could seek permanent residency. Under current temporary worker programs, personnel can’t move from employer to employer and have no path to permanent U.S. residence and citizenship. And currently there’s no good way for employers to bring many low-skilled workers to the U.S. An existing visa program for low-wage nonagricultural workers is capped at 66,000 per year and is supposed to apply only to seasonal or temporary jobs.
The Chamber of Commerce said workers would earn actual wages paid to American workers or the prevailing wages for the industry they’re working in, whichever is higher. The Labor Department determines prevailing wage based on customary rates in specific localities, so that it varies from city to city.