Congressional Budget Office: 8M could gain legal status

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WASHINGTON -- Sweeping immigration legislation moving toward a vote in the Senate would boost the economy and reduce federal deficits, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, at the same time it would bestow legal status on an estimated 8 million immigrants living in the United States unlawfully.

In an assessment that drew cheers from the White House and other backers of the bill, Congress' scorekeeping agency said the legislation would boost the overall economy. It put deficit reduction at $197 billion across a decade, and $700 billion in the following 10 years if the bill became law.

The White House issued a statement after the report was released, saying it was "more proof that bipartisan commonsense immigration reform will be good for economic growth and deficit reduction." Several of the "Gang of Eight" lawmakers who drafted the Senate bill also welcomed the news.

Other supporters said the estimate would add to the momentum behind a measure that toughens border security at the same time it holds out the hope of citizenship to millions who came to the United States illegally or overstayed their visas.

The assessment came as the pace of activity increased at both ends of the Capitol on an issue that President Barack Obama has placed at the top of his domestic agenda.

Challenged by protesters chanting "shame, shame," House Republicans advanced legislation to crack down on immigrants living illegally in the United States.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said the bill moving through the House Judiciary Committee was part of a "step by step, increment by increment" approach to immigration, an issue that can pit Republican against Republican as much if not more than it divides the two political parties.

The House panel approved its legislation on a party-line vote of 20-15 late yesterday.

The measure permits state and local authorities to enforce federal immigration laws and requires mandatory detention for anyone in the country illegally who is convicted of drunken driving.

Despite the protests, approval by the GOP-led committee was a foregone conclusion. The panel's chairman, Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) said future bills would require companies to make sure their employees are living in the United States legally, create a program for foreign farm workers who labor in the United States and enhance the ability of American firms to hire highly skilled workers from overseas.

Those steps and more are already rolled into one sweeping measure in the Senate, a bipartisan bill that Obama supports and appears on track for a final Senate vote as early as July 4.

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