Senate bill allows 46 million immigrants by 2033, says CBO

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Senate’s pending immigration bill will pave the way for the arrival of 46 million legal immigrants over the next 20 years, increase the federal debt in the same time period and shrink Americans’ average wage, according Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Session’s critical reading of two new reports on the pending immigration reform bill provided by the Congressional Budget Office.

But Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, the most prominent GOP advocate for the immigration reform bill, says the CBO reports are good news for Americans.

“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 taxpayers,” Rubio said in a statement on Tuesday. “The report offers encouraging evidence that the  [bill could] reduce the deficit over the next 20 years.”

The CBO reports were released late Tuesday and are likely to be heavily cited by Senators during the current floor debate over the bill.  The first report estimates the cost of the bill, while the second report calculates the economic impact on the nation’s workers and economy.

The Senate’s debate is slated to end in a week or two, once Nevada Democrat and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid calls for a cloture vote.

Partisans from all sides immediately claimed the two reports would help their cause.

NumbersUSA, a group that wants to shrink he current immigration level per year, pointed to a section of the CBO report where officials said the new bill would only trim illegal immigration by 25 percent. The report concluded 1.6 million fewer illegals would arrive between 2013 and 2023, suggesting that 4.8 million additional illegal immigrants would be living in the United States 10 years after the bill became law.

Colorado Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet, however, lauded the cost-estimate report.

”Today’s CBO report underscores the velocity we add to our economy by fixing our immigration system,” Bennet said in a statement, which highlighted the report’s claim that bill would trim the federal government’s multi-trillion deficit by $197 billion over a decade and expand the economy by 3.3 percent by the tenth year after passage.

Bennet and Rubio are both members of the Gang of Eight who drafted the 1,077-page bill.

Session’s office pushed back against the supporters’ brief statements and extensively dissected the CBO report to highlight bad news for the bill’s supporters.

“This bill guarantees three things: amnesty, increased welfare costs and lower wages for the U.S. workforce,” said Sessions, who leads the opposition to the Senate bill. “It would be the biggest setback for poor and middle-class Americans of any legislation Congress has considered in decades.”

Sessions’ statement explained that the claim of $197 billion in deficit reductions is flawed, because the extra money consists of Social Security taxes that should be set aside to pay for the retirement of the new immigrants who provided the taxes.

The CBO estimated that the new immigrants would earn $261.8 billion in benefits over 10 years, and pay $458.9 billion in various taxes during the same period, creating a 10-year gain of $197 billion.

That gain consists of $214 billion in Social Security taxes, which will be paid to the new immigrants’ Social Security payments once they retire.

Without the improper inclusion of the Social Security taxes, the immigration bill would actually cost taxpayers $14 billion in the first 10 years, according to Session’s press secretary, Andrew Logan.

The CBO report also claims to save $700 billion in deficit reduction during the second decade, but provides few details, Logan said. The CBO’s short-term section ignores the immigrants’ huge retirement costs, which will significantly affect the federal budget in later decades, said Logan. “As the [immigrants] age … the budget gimmick would fall apart,” he said.

In May, the Heritage Foundation conducted a similar cost estimate and calculated that the five-decade cost of offering amnesty to only 11 million low-skill immigrants would amount to $6.3 trillion.

Sessions’ press statements also highlighted elements of the economic impact report that could pose future political problems for Rubio, New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, President Barack Obama and other advocates for the bill.

For example, Sessions’ office highlighted a statement in the impact report that said average “wages would be lower than under current law through 2024.”

However, the average decline happens because most of the new immigrants are poorly educated, and will lower the average national wage — not necessarily the average wage paid to Americans: “A greater number of immigrants with lower skills than with higher skills would be added to the workforce, slightly pushing down the average wage for the labor force as a whole,” said the report.

But the impact report also says the immigration bill would curb wages for high-skilled college grads and for low-skill dropouts. “The legislation would particularly increase the number of workers with lower or higher skills but would have less effect on the number of workers with average skills … [and] the wages of lower- and higher-skilled workers would tend to be pushed downward slightly (by less than one half of a percent) relative to the wages of workers with average skills,” said the report.

Sessions also highlighted the impact report’s conclusion that the bill “would raise the unemployment rate over the next five years by up to roughly 0.1 percentage point.” That’s because the bill would add a rush of 10 million new workers, plus at least eight million illegal immigrants, plus the current inflow of one million immigrants per year, to an stalled economy that is home to 20 million unemployed or underemployed Americans, according to Sessions.

But there’s also good news in the impact report for supporters of the bill.

Workers’ productivity “would be higher by roughly 0.7 percent in 2023 and by roughly 1.0 percent in 2033, compared with what would occur under current law,” according to the impact report.

Also, the bill would have “little effect on the unemployment rate in the long run,” said the report.

The CBO impact report says the bill would increase the U.S. population by 10.4 million above current forecasts for 2023, and by 16 million in 2033.

The current forecasts predict an inflow of roughly 11 million per decade, or 22 million by 2033.

The CBO report also assumes that eight million illegal immigrants of the estimated 11 million illegals will be allowed to stay, but does not include them in the population-growth forecast because they’re already living in the United States.

Together, the current 22 million inflow, plus the new 16 million and the eight million illegals, add up to 46 million new or legalized people for the nation in 20 years.

The nation’s current population is 314 million, so the bill would ensure the arrival of one new immigrant for every six Americans.

The report also predicts the bill will boost the number of resident guest-workers by 1.6 million in 2023, and by 2.8 million in 2033. Current law allows roughly 700,000 guest workers per year, including about 50,000 workers for the agriculture sector, and at least 400,000 university-trained workers. The estimated pool of guest-workers now in the country exceeds 1.5 million.

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