WASHINGTON, June 18 A White House-backed
immigration bill moving through the U.S. Senate would cut
federal budget deficits over the long term and provide an
overall boost to the economy, the Congressional Budget Office
said on Tuesday.
The CBO, the nonpartisan budget scorekeeper for Congress,
estimated the legislation would reduce deficits by $197 billion
from 2014 to 2023 and by $700 billion from 2024 to 2033.
The estimate contrasts starkly with a forecast issued last
month by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank that
said the immigration bill would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion
over the next half century as a result of granting legal status
to nearly 11 million undocumented people now living in the
The Senate bill "would boost economic output," the CBO
The CBO said it did not attempt to look beyond a 20-year
window because "ascertaining the effects of immigration policies
on the economy and the federal budget is complicated and highly
uncertain, even in the short run, and that task is even more
difficult for longer periods."
Over the first 10 years, the CBO said government costs would
rise by $262 billion, mainly because of increases in refundable
tax credits and healthcare spending, particularly for Medicaid,
the government health program for the poor and disabled.
Republican senators are hoping to pass amendments in coming
days that would specifically deny the refundable tax credit and
other benefits to the undocumented residents who would gain
legal status under the bill.
Furthermore, House of Representatives Republicans have been
pushing to deny any Medicaid-covered healthcare, including
hospital emergency visits, for the 11 million illegal
immigrants. Negotiators have been looking at ways of charging
the newly legalized people fees to cover such costs.
But more than offsetting the higher government spending
would be an increase in revenues totaling $459 billion from 2014
to 2023, according to estimates by the CBO and the Joint
Committee on Taxation, as more people pay taxes and get out of
the "shadow" economy.
The CBO's projection "debunks the idea that immigration
reform is anything other than a boon to our economy, and robs
the bill's opponents of one of their last remaining arguments,"
said Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, one of the
leading proponents of the immigration bill the Senate hopes to
pass before a July 4 recess.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who like Schumer
is a member of the "Gang of Eight" that wrote the bipartisan
bill, said, "The CBO has further confirmed what most
conservative economists have found: reforming our immigration
system is a net benefit for our economy, American workers and
Some conservative Republicans who oppose the bill argue it
would hurt the American economy and workers.