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Guest worker visas an issue in talks

March 30, 2013 at 11:29 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- U.S. senators working on immigration reform are trying to bridge the gap between unions and business owners on guest worker visas, The Washington Post reports.

One plan would cap the number of visas for low-skilled workers at 20,000 in the first year of an expanded program, the newspaper said Friday, citing sources involved in the discussion. By 2020, 75,000 visas would be allocated to that group.

One specific area of disagreement is the number of visas that would be allocated for the construction industry.

The AFL-CIO is lobbying for tight limits on the hiring of foreign workers in construction.

Under a union-friendly plan, only one-third of the new visas would go to construction workers. The industry, unlike others, would be barred from hiring employees beyond the cap who would have to be paid significantly higher wages.

Business lobbyists have been pushing for a more expansive program, with 400,000 new visas for guest workers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. -- one of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" working on the bill said he is optimistic the differences will be resolved.

"We are very close, closer than we have ever been, and we are very optimistic, but there are still a few issues remaining," he said.

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