House and Senate conferees, after five hours of private horse trading, agreed today to a sweeping immigration bill that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens who entered the country before 1982.
The agreement means that Congress could approve the measure before adjourning for the year.
The bill, as worked out by conferees in a closed meeting, seeks to prevent the entry of more illegal aliens by making it unlawful to hire them. It also would grant temporary residence to some aliens who entered since 1982.
The compromise, designed to soften the opposition of Western growers largely dependent on illegal aliens for harvesting their crops, would grant temporary legal status to many who have worked recently in agriculture.
The lawmakers also found agreement on employer sanctions, civil rights protections for Latinos and free legal services for some agricultural workers.
One of the issues dropped by the House was a plan to temporarily stop deportation of illegal immigrants from El Salvador and Nicaragua until a study could be made of conditions they would face at home.
The Reagan Administration threatened to veto the bill if the proposal was retained.
The centerpiece of the bill remains a system of fines against employers who hire illegal aliens and amnesty for those who arrived illegally but established roots here over a long period of time.
The conferees accepted the House language that would make those who came here before 1982 eligible for the amnesty program. The Senate plan to delay amnesty for up to three years was dropped.
The House dropped its proposal to end employer sanctions after 6 1/2 years unless Congress extends them.
House language to prohibit job discrimination against those waiting for legalization was retained despite initial Senate opposition. However, the agreement specified that the civil rights protections could end after three years if they are found to cause undue harm to employers.
The conferees accepted an offer from President Reagan to provide $4 billion over four years to reimburse state and local governments for the cost of legalization.
The reimbursement program for state and local governments was the issue two years ago that left a similar immigration conference deadlocked and prevented the legislation from passing.