Immigration reform took a huge step forward yesterday when the labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce reached a deal on allowing temporary workers into the United States. Labor has long opposed giving business carte blanche to import workers out of fear that American workers would see their labor standards erode. Business has insisted that it needs foreign workers to stay competitive in a global economy. Economists say that unless there is a way to fill jobs in certain labor sectors with temporary workers, undocumented immigration will never be permanently reduced. They insist that the future flow of immigrant workers has to be addressed to have meaningful reform.
The deal establishes a mechanism for setting the number of foreign workers allowed to be brought into the U.S. every year based on labor market needs and unemployment. This was a central demand of the unions and one that business refused to agree to the last time immigration reform was on the table. Under the new system, American workers would get the first shot at any job. The agreement also foresees that some temporary workers will be able to adjust their status to permanent residence over time.
This agreement is likely to bring more Republicans in Congress on board for immigration reform.