DENVER (CBS4) – Congress may be on the verge of passing major immigration reform, and a Colorado lawmaker is working to make that happen.
Sen. Michael Bennet is one of eight senators working on legislation to reform the country’s immigration system. The Democrat says the group, which includes four Republicans and three other Democrats, will introduce a bill as early as next week.
Bennet says they have reached a compromise on a controversial guest worker program.
“We are very very close,” Bennet told CBS4.
“Our job then is to get a big vote in the Senate to encourage the House to move forward on this legislation.”
And he says they’ve cleared maybe the biggest hurdle. Unions and business, he says, have reached an agreement on worker visas.
“This issue — which is the future flow of low skilled workers — is what brought the bill down last time,” Bennet said.
He wouldn’t provide details, but an earlier proposal capped low-skilled workers at 200,000.
Michael Barrera, the Western Regional Director of the Republican-leaning Hispanic group Libre Initiative, says the visas are key to any reform.
“We used to own a restaurant. Folks would work and they’d go back home and come back and then when they closed up borders they stayed and then missed their families so they brought their families over,” Barrera said. “A lot of them would be happy just working and then going back and forth.”
The legislation will also address the exodus of high-skilled workers who go to school here but then start businesses in other countries.
“We’re going to be able to say, if we can get this legislation passed, that we’re open for business again. We want talented people to come to this country and invent the future here,” he said.
Bennet knows the bill’s success or failure likely rests on he and his “gang.”
“I think in the next week or two we are going to intro legislation endorsed by all of us that if it passes the Senate and the House really could make a profound difference,” Bennet said.
A bill requiring universal background checks on all gun sales could also be introduced in the Senate next week.
Bennet says the sponsors are working through this weekend to finalize it. He does say its unclear if they have the votes to get it through.