/ Modified apr 1, 2013 7 p.m.

Flake: Immigration Reform Closer

Legislation coming soon, but 'Gang of 8' wants buy-in


Comprehensive immigration reform will come about only if the legislative process is open and inclusive, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake said Monday.

Flake, R-Ariz., said in an interview for the AZ Illustrated Metro broadcast that he thinks strides are being made, especially with the recent agreement of business and labor on the trappings of a guest-worker program.

"That's the thorniest part of the immigration debate, I think," Flake said. " ... If we want a secure border, one of the things we need is a legal framework for people to come and go, to recognize our labor needs.

Flake said the hangup has been that labor says immigrant workers depress wages for U.S. workers, while business says it needs access to labor when their are worker shortages.

The compromise reached in the last few days tries to accommodate both, the senator said.

"We picked a place we think both sides can live with. ... Nobody likes itvery much, but they can live with it," Flake said. "In the end, you need to go to business to say, where are your shortages, what labor needs do you have. With labor, (ask) do you feel this will depress wages."

Flake, a member of the Senate "Gang of Eight" trying to craft a compromise bill, said the process will work only if people don't this it is a "secret group." he said going through the regular process for legislation is necessary.

Asked to handicap the chances for reform, he said that if the proponents "don't try to ram something through the Senate," it has a chance.

"We hope to be able to stick together and convince our colleagues that this is the right approach," he said.

Flake said as a native Arizonan who worked with immigrants on his family's ranch, he feels well informed on what the motivation is for people crossing the border.

"Having worked alongside people who come, I just have never been able to place them all in a criminal class and say, you know these people are trying to game our system," he said. "Most of them are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. ... the economy benefited from the labor that was provided."

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