Biz, labor groups agree on US guest worker program

Posted at 04/02/13 12:03 PM

LOS ANGELES - As lawmakers, lobbyists and organizations worked through the Easter weekend on the immigration overhaul, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Chamber of Commerce, came to an agreement on a proposed guest worker program that will begin with 20,000 guest worker visas and will climb to 75,000 within 5 years.

Eventually, the number will vary between 20,000 to 200,000 depending on unemployment rates, labor shortages, and other economic factors.

“We have an agreement between business and labor between ourselves. It has to be drafted. It would be rolled out next week. Yes, I believe it will pass the House because it secures our borders, it controls who gets the job. (sic) And the main thing, the combination of events in this bill will prevent a third wave of illegal immigration and replacement a broken immigration with a merit-based, economic-based system to help grow our economy in the future,” explained Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on a CNN interview on Sunday.

The work visas can then lead to permanent residency. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center supports the idea as long as it can ensure worker rights.

“We want to make sure, as a community, that guest workers have strong protections and that they are not exploited,” said Betty Hung of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Recent Balitang America Isyu Ngayon polls show that 54% of audience believed skilled workers should be prioritized over family petitions, with key provisions such as family petitions, amnesty, and guest worker programs on the table.

APALC has organized a phone-in action asking Asian Americans to call their lawmakers on the National Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Hung says while the guest worker provision sounds promising their biggest concern is the possible elimination of certain family based petitions.

“A really important reason why you should make your voice heard and call your local member of congress and your senator is because right now family based immigration is potentially at stake for Asian Americans and the Filipino community in particular. What’s being contemplated by the senators, the "Gang of 8" who are currently negotiating an immigration reform bill is to eliminate the brother sister category and the adult married children category," Hung said.