POSTED: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 5:00pm
UPDATED: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 5:14pm
(CNN) — The Chamber of Commerce and ALF-CIO reached an agreement Thursday over a visa program aimed at lesser-skilled workers, a flashpoint in the ongoing debate over immigration reform.
The announcement follows weeks of meetings between Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka over the issue, left out of the immigration plan unveiled by the White House.
The joint statement of principles outlined elements both sides sought and acknowledged more work is necessary to turn their ideas into legislation.
Under the agreement, American citizens will learn of low-wage job opportunities first, a perceived win for labor. Employers will be able to hire foreign workers regardless of the state of unemployment in the United States, a perceived win for business. And both sides agreed to gather additional data about labor markets and demographics to aid in future employment deficiencies, according to the statement.
"We are now in the middle -- not the end -- of this process, and we pledge to continue to work together and with our allies and our representatives on Capitol Hill to finalize a solution that is in the interest of this country we all love," the release read.
President Barack Obama met with representatives from both sides earlier in the month as they worked toward a deal. Labor was concerned about workers from outside the United States taking jobs otherwise available American workers and business was intent on keeping a flow of workers into the country.
Thursday's message from the Chamber and AFL-CIO will likely help shepherd an agreement on the controversial topic while plans from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the White House are debated.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the statement of principles is the latest example of progress on immigration reform but would not say if the president would support the proposals for low-skilled workers.
"But we're focused on the bill the Senate hopefully will produce soon as part of this effort," Carney said. "I'm not going to prejudge a bill that has not been written."
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