Experts Dispute CBO Report on Immigration Reform

Say amnesty for illegal immigrants will increase deficit

Immigration reform supporters / AP
June 19, 2013

Immigration experts at the Heritage Foundation disputed claims by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill would benefit the nation Wednesday.

Giving the current 11 million illegal immigrants’ amnesty would increase the national deficit, said Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

"If you take a body of 11 million immigrants who have an average education of 10th grade and give them access to 80 different means-tested welfare programs, Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare, there’s a huge net cost to that overtime," Rector said.

The CBO concluded that the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill would cut the national deficit, boost the economy, and reduce the number of unauthorized residents by 25 percent.

According to the two reports from CBO, through immigration reform current immigrants residing in the United States would be naturalized, resulting in more working-age legal immigrants coming in the future. The larger the population suggests more opportunities for people finding work, the creation of jobs, and paying taxes. CBO said the national deficit would decrease by $197 billion over the next 10 years.

Rector said this was overly optimistic.

Rector researched the cost of the amnesty portion of the bill and concluded that legalized immigrants would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and pay only $3.1 trillion in taxes over their lifetime. This would generate a deficit of $6.3 trillion, which citizens have to pay.

"Congress has yet to figure out how that will be paid for," Rector said. "But I’m sure they will have no problem resolving that."

William Beach, chief economist at the Senate Budget Committee, said in 20 years the population of undocumented individuals would reach seven million. That number translates to 350,000 people without documents each year.

"In other words, CBO is saying that this bill will make no difference whatsoever to the undocumented residencies, the overstays, the cross borders, and so forth," Beach said. "Despite the fact that this is the number one border security bill out there."

The CBO concluded that a larger population in the next 10 years equates to more workers, which boots federal revenue by $459 billion. The increase is a result in additional income and payroll taxes due to a larger workforce.

However, Rector said the number is inflated. He said for example, the ratio of temporary working immigrants who are considered low skilled to immigrants with high skills is seven to one.

"The fact of the matter is what they are in essence arguing is that all of that productivity growth is coming from about one-tenth of the immigrants that they’re bringing in," Rector said.

The panelists emphasized that Republicans or Democrats who oppose S.744 do not necessarily oppose immigration.

"The answer would be of course to make sure that you’re getting the right types of skills into the country given the type of economy that you have," Beach said. "We need to use the CBO scoring to get a deeper understanding of what kind of immigration bills we want."