Immigration Overhaul Would Cut a Trillion Dollars from U.S. Deficit Over 20 Years, Says Budget Office

Thursday, June 20, 2013
(AP Photo)

If conservative members of Congress want to shrink the federal deficit, they should get behind the immigration reform plan currently under consideration, say advocates of the proposal.


A new report (pdf) from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) states that the proposed immigration law—which would open the way for about 10 million undocumented workers to become citizens—could result in trimming nearly $1 trillion from the federal deficit over the next two decades.


CBO analysts concluded that the benefits of adding legal residents through immigration reform would outweigh the costs.


The new law, if adopted, would produce enough new revenues through taxes paid by immigrants-turned-citizens to reduce the deficit by $197 billion during the first 10 years.


The savings would be even greater in the next decade, the CBO said. From 2024 to 2033, the deficit would shrink by $700 billion.


During the latter time frame, government spending would increase by $262 billion, primarily due to refundable tax credits and health insurance subsidies kicking in. The first-decade projected savings of $197 billion doesn’t take into account $22 billion in associated expenses, such as increased border security.


The cost to employers—for such things as visa fees for foreign workers, and an employee legal status verification system—is estimated to be in excess of $700 million per year.


In spite of these expenses, the economic benefits to the nation are substantial, according to the report.


Immigration reform supporters used the CBO report to show Republicans that backing the legislation would help the country’s fiscal future.


Charles E. Schumer (D-New York), one of the bill’s authors, said the report “debunks the idea that immigration reform is anything other than a boon to our economy.”


Still, GOP leaders were hesitant to embrace the CBO news or change their position on the bill.


House Speaker John Boehner said he would not bring the legislation to the floor for a vote until a majority of Republicans support it. He made the statement after Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) said in a radio interview that Boehner “should be removed as speaker” if he did otherwise.


In the Senate, Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a leading opponent of the bill, dismissed the CBO analysis, claiming analysts used “scoring gimmicks” in order to conceal the “true cost from taxpayers” of letting more illegal immigrants become citizens.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Immigration Law Changes Seen Cutting Billions From Deficit (by Ashley Parker, New York Times)

CBO: Senate Immigration Bill to Save $175 Billion (by Sara Murray and Kristina Peterson, Wall Street Journal)

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Would Cut Deficit and Boost Economy: CBO (Reuters)

Cost Estimate: S. 744 - Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (Congressional Budget Office) (pdf)

Immigrants Paid $115 Billion More to Medicare than Amount of Benefits They Received (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Administration Spends More to Enforce Immigration Laws than On All Other Law Enforcement Combined (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Illegal Immigrants Pay $11 Billion in Taxes a Year (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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