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Business, Labor Close On Deal For Immigration Bill

Schumer said: "This issue has always been the dealbreaker on immigration reform, but not this time."

The AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce, longtime antagonists over temporary worker programs, had been fighting over wages for tens of thousands of low-skilled workers who would be brought in under the new program to fill jobs in construction, hotels and resorts, nursing homes and restaurants, and other industries.

Under the agreement, a new "W'' visa program would go into effect beginning April 1, 2015, according to an AFL-CIO fact sheet.

In year one of the program, 20,000 workers would be allowed in; in year two, 35,000; in year three, 55,000; and in year four, 75,000. Ultimately the program would be capped at 200,000 workers 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. One-third of all visas in any year would go to businesses with under 25 workers.

A "safety valve" would allow employers to exceed the cap if they can show need and pay premium wages, but any additional workers brought in would be subtracted from the following year's cap.

The workers could move from employer to employer and would be able to petition for permanent residency after a year, and ultimately seek U.S. citizenship. Neither is possible for temporary workers now.

The new program would fill needs employers say they have that are not currently met by U.S. immigration programs. Most industries don't have a good way to hire a steady supply of foreign workers because there's one temporary visa program for low-wage nonagricultural workers but it's capped at 66,000 visas per year and is only supposed to be used for seasonal or temporary jobs.

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