Business and Labor Face a Narrowing Window in Immigration Negotiations

If labor and business can't come to an agreement on lesser-skilled workers, a Senate bill might face a hard road ahead.

"I've had a lot of meetings on the Hill on this issue, and I would say it would put the whole bill in serious jeopardy," Johnson said. "Because critical players on the Hill, including Republicans, believe that this kind of program is a necessary part of having a rational immigration policy." Any future worker program will need to be "simpler and more logical" than the current programs, Johnson added.

While how to handle future flows of lesser-skilled is still under debate, the Senate group working on reform has come to an more-detailed agreement on a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.

Immigrants without papers would need to apply for a probationary legal status, and meet certain qualifications, such as passing a criminal background check and filing federal income taxes. A person qualifying for the probationary status would not be allowed to receive federal public benefits, including food stamps, family cash assistance, Medicaid and unemployment insurance, the L.A. Times reported.

The senate group hasn't finalized how long it will take for undocumented immigrants to receive a green card, but legislative aides said the delay could be 10 years or longer.

The agreement represents a significant step forward in the legislative process, but major questions about the bill still remain. One of the biggest will be negotiations over future flows of lower-skilled workers.

"It's an area where you quickly move from the 100,000-foot level to a jungle of details," Johnson said. "But those are important details to sort through, and we're still hopeful we can do it."

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