Immigration reform talks stalled by wage disputes

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:10pm EDT

A new U.S. citizen waves a U.S. national flag in front of a display of flags of the more than 40 nations represented by the more than 90 immigrants becoming U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A new U.S. citizen waves a U.S. national flag in front of a display of flags of the more than 40 nations represented by the more than 90 immigrants becoming U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts March 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate negotiations on revamping the immigration system are stalled over wages for future low-skilled foreign workers such as construction laborers, cooks, janitors and hotel maids, sources familiar with the talks said on Friday.

Bipartisan talks aimed at producing a comprehensive immigration law - including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and a new process for controlling the flow of temporary workers - have been underway for months and were close to producing a bill.

There were conflicting versions of the disagreement.

According to one source who asked not to be identified, the eight senators involved in the discussions had tentatively agreed on a plan to govern wage levels for low-skilled foreigners who would be given visas to work in the United States temporarily.

The source said Democrats presented a plan and Republicans accepted it, but when senators showed it to the AFL-CIO, the labor union federation said no.

But, according to the AFL-CIO, Democrats presented Republicans with a plan and the Republicans rejected it.

The proposal would have borrowed language on wages for temporary workers from the "H2B" visa program for temporary, seasonal workers.

That specifies that the visas will only be issued if they do not drive down the wages of those doing the same job in the United States.

Also in dispute was the inclusion of construction workers in the plan, which business wants and labor does not.

As senators tried to wrap up the complex negotiations and then leave Washington for a two-week recess, business and labor groups traded accusations.

Randel Johnson, a senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington's largest business lobby, said "unions have jeopardized the entire immigration reform effort...because of their refusal to take a responsible stance on a small temporary worker program."

Organized labor had a similarly angry characterization of the status of talks. "There is an uncomprehending level of anger. We have conceded on so many different grounds. They (Republicans) want to pave the path to citizenship with poverty," said Jeff Hauser, a spokesman with the AFL-CIO.

In the midst of the labor-business dispute, senators were still voicing optimism for getting a deal. Support from organized labor and the chamber is considered crucial to getting any immigration law through the Congress.

Finding a solution acceptable to both has always been considered the most difficult challenge by the group of four Republicans and four Democrats involved in the negotiations.

On Friday, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, one of the eight, said that while he was "guardedly optimistic" about the negotiations, "we hit bumps every five minutes."

On Thursday, another member of the group, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, told reporters the bipartisan group would meet its end-of-month timetable for a deal. Schumer said it would be "an agreement with a darn good chance of becoming law."

While that was before negotiations between the Chamber and AFL-CIO spiraled into open warfare, a spokesman for Schumer late Friday said the senator stands by his statement.

The eight senators will continue talking during the congressional recess, according to aides.

(Edited by Fred Barbash and Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (7)
AdamSmith wrote:
The American worker has always been famous for being the hardest working, most productive worker in the world. That’s how America became great.

The American ag worker, the American construction trades worker, the American factory worker – No other country in the world has the reputation of the American worker for back-breaking, hard, efficient, productive labor.

The difference between America and the other nations is that America didn’t have a monarchy, or a nobility, or a dictatorship of the wealthy, as in Europe or Latin American banana republics.

America was different. It was founded on the opposite principal to a monarchy. It was founded on an egalitarian principal of a culture looking out for every man. Doing what was good for the entire nation.

Today, after NAFTA, and the immense profits to be made by importing foreign immigrant labor, America’s legislatures and the President have sold the American worker out for profits.

It’s similar to the immense profits to be made by importing cocaine. Those immense profits allow the smugglers to draft the laws of legislature to favor their trade.

Likewise, the immense profits of importing immigrant labor allow the moneyed interests to easily bribe and sway legislatures and President Obama to favor their trade.

Thus this huge tide of foreign immigration into the US is quickly destroying the American working class.

Mar 22, 2013 11:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:
Should a criminal make the same wage as a legal citizen or someone working here legally? NO!

Mar 22, 2013 12:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Abulafiah wrote:
@AdamSmith

You need to learn the difference between opinion and fact. I have never, ever heard anybody say “The American worker is famous for being the hardest working, most productive worker in the world”, or even anything close to it.

BTW… posting the same post in 5 different threads doesn’t make it true. It is just spamming.

Mar 23, 2013 8:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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