A group of GOP lawmakers reached a deal to double the annual number of visas for temporary seasonal guest workers, suggesting a breakthrough on the prickly immigration issue, the Washington Times reported Monday.
The news outlet, citing a memorandum of understanding it had viewed, said the deal would allow the annual number of H-2B visas to rise from 66,000 to 132,000.
It would also require businesses hoping to use the H-2B visa program submit to strict checks on their workforce, making sure anyone hired since 2012, and those hired going forward, are in the country legally.
Staffers for Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., as well as Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., agreed to the terms with the H-2B Workforce Coalition and the Seasonal Employment Alliance, the news outlet reported.
"There is broad bipartisan consensus in support of seasonal small businesses and the American workers they employ, and progress is being made on a fair compromise," Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin told the Washington Times.
The lawmakers hope to attach the plan to a must-pass spending bill, the news outlet reported.
But a group calling for stricter limits on foreign workers called the proposal worrisome.
"Donald Trump won the White House by running on a pro-American-worker immigration message, but his party lost control of the House during the midterms by abandoning that message," Chris Chmielenski, deputy director at NumbersUSA, told the news outlet.
"This agreement is evidence that Republicans haven't learned from their recent election losses."
The number of visas issued under the H-2B program peaked at nearly 130,000 in 2007, then dipped to fewer than 45,000 just two years later. The numbers rose again to between 83,000 and 85,000 in 2016 and 201, the news outlet noted.
Grassley's support could be crucial; he is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and was a vocal critic of Congress' decision to allow for the boost in visas the past two years, the news outlet reported.
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