HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Lawmakers working on immigration reform say a major breakthrough in negotiations has brought them closer to a possible deal.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer says the group of 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans, called the Gang of Eight, working on a proposal, cleared a major hurdle with business and labor groups this weekend. They've agreed to a new visa program for low skill workers that would allow tens of thousands of immigrants to come to the United States to fill jobs in industries like construction and hospitality.
"I'm hopeful they`ll maybe make some progress on this issue instead of what they've been doing. Which is nothing," said State Representative Mike Ball, a Republican representing Madison. "If there's a method in place where they're paying taxes and being covered by workman's comp and competing in a fair manner, it's got some potential."
Ball still has some reservations, saying he is concerned about how it would affect Alabama's working poor, who would face further competition for jobs.
"You want the overhead, the cost of hiring a guest worker, to at least be as much as it is to hire a legal citizen," said ball.
Ball says he doesn't believe comprehensive federal immigration reform would cause a conflict with the immigration laws already on Alabama books.
The Gang of Eight is currently writing the bill.
Republicans in the group say they`re confident legislation will pass, but warn there is no deal yet.