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Behind-the-scenes deal pushes immigration reform closer to reality

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The problem with the current system, all sides agree, is that it leaves worker shortages when the economy is surging and allows too many workers to enter the country when economic activity slackens. The AFL-CIO and the US Chamber of Commerce addressed this in their joint statement on Thursday.

“Our challenge is to create a mechanism that responds to the needs of business in a market-driven way, while also fully protecting the wages and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers,” it read.

While important details remain to be worked out, the Chamber and AFL-CIO said Thursday that the goal was achievable.

“The power of today’s technology enables us to use that knowledge to craft a workable demand-driven process fed by data that will inform how America addresses future labor shortages,” the two groups said in the statement.

Interestingly, the general concept of a commission to propose changes to visa numbers is one whose intellectual foundation lies within the labor movement. It is the brainchild of Ray Marshall, a secretary of Labor under President Carter and a co-founder of the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

But Chamber and AFL-CIO leaders, who attested to a productive working relationship during frequent meetings during the last several months, both broadly endorsed the concept Thursday.

“We recognize that there is no simple solution to this issue,” the statement says. “We agree that a professional bureau in a federal executive agency, with political independence analogous to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, should be established to inform Congress and the public about these issues.”        

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