Recently it was widely reported that the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often at loggerheads with each other on immigration (especially on the admission of low-skilled immigrants), had reached agreement on broad principles to pave the way for immigration reform. Generally, unions want to prevent an influx of low skilled workers that could undercut wages of U.S. workers while businesses wants to admit immigrants with few limits to the number, wages, and conditions of said workers. As Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal reports though, there are a few unresolved issues including, "how employers will prove they triedto recruit Americans before hiring from abroad, whether immigrant workers will be required to leave after a set period, and whether they become eligible to become American citizens."
These sticking points are huge and indicate that the broad principles are only aspirational generalities. The devil in the details may very well scuttle any immigration alliance between labor and business. The AFL-CIO is aware of how U.S. employers can bypass "advertising" requirements by placing ads in out of the way publications. How would employers prove that they tried to find U.S. workers? If the process is cumbersome, employers will continue to turn to a pool of undocumented labor. Labor should be pushing hard for enhanced work-site enforcement to keep employers honest.
Even assuming labor and business come to an agreement on the mechanisms to admit low skilled workers, allowing the workers a path to permanent legal status might be a deal breaker because conservatives would view it as another amnesty. One should keep in mind the Max Frisch quote every immigration scholar knows, "We asked for workers. We got people instead." There is rarely such a thing as a temporary immigrant.