Immigration reform would improve economy and cut deficits, says CBO

Published: Wednesday, June 19 2013 3:05 p.m. MDT

In this June 13, 2013 picture, U.S. Border Patrol agent Jerry Conlin looks to the north near where the border wall ends as is separates Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, right.

Gregory Bull, Associated Press

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The immigration reform bill making its way through the Senate would boost economic growth and decrease the federal deficit, according to a report released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act now in the Senate would create a guest worker program, increase high-skilled worker visas and legalize current immigrants. The nonpartisan CBO said the legislation would boost GDP by 3.3 percent in 2023 and by 5.4 percent in 2033.

The CBO also found that the bill would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the next 10 years and roughly $700 billion over the next 20 years. While the report found that the legislation would cost $22 billion over the next 10 years, that still results in a net deficit reduction of $175 billion.

Other research has supported the finding that immigrants pay more into the system than they take out. According to a recent study published in Health Affairs, immigrants contributed an estimated $115.2 billion more to the Medicare Trust Fund than they took out between 2002 and 2009.

The CBO report said average wages for the labor force would be slightly lower in 2023 but slightly higher in 2033 under the legislation than under current law. Additionally, the report found that the bill would increase unemployment slightly by 2020.

Opponents of the legislation seized on these findings to argue against the bill. "The wages of U.S. workers — which should be growing — will instead decline," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., according to Fox News. "It would be the biggest setback for poor and middle-class Americans of any legislation Congress has considered in decades."

But the White House and members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" who drafted the bill say that the report shows how the American economy will benefit from the legislation. According to the International Business Times, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the report underpinned the necessity of immigration reform. “Overall, the CBO report offers encouraging evidence that the status quo is unacceptable," he said. "We can end it without burdening our already burdened taxpayers and, in fact, reduce the deficit over the next 20 years."

EMAIL: dmerling@deseretnews.com

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