WASHINGTON -- Comprehensive immigration legislation passed by the Senate would reduce illegal immigration by one-third to one-half beyond what would happen under existing law, the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday.
That's a significantly greater reduction than the nonpartisan budget office said would have resulted from an earlier version of the bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have cut illegal immigration by 25 percent.
Partly in response to that earlier finding, senators agreed to greatly boost border security in the bill and take steps against people who overstay their visas. Those changes helped the legislation pass the Democratic-controlled Senate with a bipartisan 68-32 majority last week. It's now pending in the Republican-led House, where its future is uncertain.
The CBO also said that despite spending $36 billion more on border security than would have happened under earlier versions of the bill, the legislation would reduce the budget deficit by $158 billion over 10 years and $685 billion in the decade after that. Taxes paid by newly legalized residents, along with other revenue, would outpace new spending for government benefits and other costs under the bill. The measure, if enacted, would cost the government about $23 billion to implement over the first 10 years.
The legislation would double border patrol agents stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border while calling for hundreds of miles of fencing and requiring all businesses to check their workers' legal status. Some 11 million immigrants already here illegally would be able to attain citizenship over 13 years, if they pay fines and taxes and meet certain requirements.
New and expanded worker visa programs would allow tens of thousands of new workers into the country for high-skilled and low-skilled professions.
"CBO once again vindicated immigration reform and shows how the amendment process improved the bill," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement, referring to the border security amendment championed by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota.
"CBO has reaffirmed that immigration reform reduces the debt and grows the economy," Schumer added.