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Accord reached on bipartisan immigration measure

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By Reuters
Thursday, May 16, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives said on Thursday it has reached a tentative deal to revamp the immigration system despite disputes over a temporary worker program and health care benefits that threatened to derail its efforts.

“We have essentially come to an agreement on all the major points,” Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., told reporters after a two-hour meeting with six other Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

The bipartisan group has been attempting to introduce an immigration bill for years. But disputes over border security, work visa numbers and health care provisions had grown to the point that there were fears some lawmakers might be on the verge of dropping out of the long negotiations.

Yarmuth said there still were some “loose ends” but said that they were not major disagreements.

None of the lawmakers would provide details of the deal to reporters.

The group had been arguing over the “triggers” that would define when additional border security steps under the legislation would be sufficient to start legalizing some of the 11 million unauthorized foreigners, sources said.

There was disagreement over other policy issues central to an immigration bill, including the number of foreign high-tech workers who would be allowed in, as well as low-skilled construction and service industry laborers.

A separate bipartisan bill is being debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee with the goal of bringing a bill before the full Senate next month.

That panel is struggling with the work visa program in the bill and is under intense pressure from technology companies to make it easier to hire foreign workers.

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