POLITICS

There is no AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce immigration breakthrough

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

The Washington Post has described the immigration “principles” released by the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce yesterday a “breakthrough.” But is it?

First keep in mind that just last Friday Politico was reporting that talks between unions and the Chamber over the design of a guest worker program had completely stalled. Then the White House leaked details of their entire reform plan last weekend except  they conveniently left out any mention of a guest worker program. Now we have the joint AFL-CIO/Chamber press release produced yesterday.

But is there really anything new in it? Compare the text of the AFL-CIO/Chamber release here with the principles released by the Senate’s Gang of Ocho a month ago here.

Both documents acknowledge that employers will always want to hire cheap immigrant labor. The AFL-CIO/Chamber document acknowledges guest workers will be needed “even during tough economic times” while the Gang of Ocho document acknowledges they will be needed even “when our economy is not creating jobs.”

Both documents acknowledge that employers should try to hire Americans first. The AFL-CIO/Chamber document says “American workers should have a first crack at available jobs” (AFL-CIO/Chamber). The Gang of Ocho document says employers can “hire immigrants if it can be demonstrated that they were unsuccessful in in recruiting an American to fill an open position.”

Both documents even acknowledge that future guest workers should also be given a path to citizenship. The AFL-CIO/Chamber document says a new guest worker program must “not keep all workers in a permanent temporary status.” The Gang of Ocho document says “workers who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years” should be able to “earn green cards.”

The only real difference between the two documents is that the AFL-CIO/Chamber document creates “a professional bureau in a federal executive agency” that would collect data on the need for lesser-skilled workers. But even this new government bureaucracy appears to be toothless. It would only advise Congress and the public.

How many lesser-skilled immigrant visas will be given out each year? How will employers verify that they can’t find Americans to do those jobs? How many years must a guest worker serve before they can get a green card? None of these questions have been answered. There has been zero progress on immigration reform since the Gang of Ocho first announced their plan weeks ago.

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