US senators closer to immigration deal

Washington, March 30 (IANS) A bipartisan group of senators is closer to a deal on immigration reform to resolve the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants, including some 260,000 Indians, according to a media report.

The “Gang of Eight”, as the group of four Democratic and four Republican senators negotiating the deal is called, had moved closer to an agreement on a visa programme for future low-skilled workers, Politico, an influential news site focusing on politics reported.
The visa programme was the biggest obstacle in the Senate talks and differences between labour and business over how to craft it put the entire package in limbo just a week ago, it said.
This progress is the most positive sign yet that the senators will reach their goal of unveiling a package when they return in early April from a two-week recess, Politico reported.
Since the breakdown, labour, business and staff have worked to iron out some of the biggest issues, including wages and whether construction industry workers would be exempt from the programme, it said citing several sources close to the talks.
Senator Charles Schumer told reporters in Nogales, Arizona, Wednesday that the negotiators were on track and had 90 percent agreement on the entire package, which will include a pathway to citizenship and border security.
“The bottom line is we are very close. I’d say we are 90 percent there,” Schumer was quoted as saying. “We have a few little problems to work on … but we’re very hopeful that we will meet our deadline.”
The unions opposed a business-backed plan to bring in many of the temporary workers at the lowest wage rate, Politico said.
In the last few days, all sides have coalesced around a proposal requiring that the visas are distributed more evenly across wage levels so that the median wage of all temporary workers is closer to what the union has been demanding, it said citing an unnamed source.
The programme would allow businesses bring in up to 200,000 low-skilled workers annually, depending on economic conditions.