07/03/2013 12:20 pm ET Updated Jul 03, 2013

CBO: Immigration Bill Would Reduce Unauthorized Entries

WASHINGTON -- The final version of the Senate immigration bill that passed last week would decrease the undocumented population by about 800,000 more people than it would have without increased border security measures, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office released Wednesday.

That decrease would come at a cost: the amendment adds $38 billion to the price tag of the bill. The spending doesn't directly correlate with the number of undocumented immigrants in the population, and the original bill as drafted would have reduced the number by allowing a path to citizenship for those already in the country. But if cost of increased border security spending is compared to the additional reduction of the undocumented population, that means about $47,500 in spending for every additional unauthorized immigrant kept out by the increased border measures.

The CBO findings give credence, however, to an argument by the bill's backers that they could prevent a swell of unauthorized immigration by increasing funding to border security. The CBO estimated that the bill would reduce illegal entries by up to 50 percent, up from the initial projection of 25 percent.

The border security amendment included in the final bill, written by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), was deemed necessary to win over unsure Democrats and the 14 Republicans who eventually voted for the legislation, which passed 68-32 last Wednesday. The amendment would add 20,000 border patrol agents, expand fencing and increase surveillance along the border.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) put out a statement saying the CBO report "vindicated immigration reform and shows how the amendment process improved the bill."

"CBO has reaffirmed that immigration reform reduces the debt and grows the economy," he continued. "It also shows that the Corker-Hoeven amendment further substantially reduces the flow of illegal immigrants, even using a methodology that underestimates how effective immigration reform will be in reducing that flow."

The additional apprehensions, prosecutions and detention of undocumented immigrants in the final bill would add $600 million to its cost.

The more recent report also found significant savings from the immigration reform bill, albeit smaller than in the bill that first went to the floor. CBO estimated previously that the legislation would reduce the deficit by $700 billion over the next 20 years, while its final version would shrink the deficit by $685 billion in the same time period. Over the first decade, the bill passed last week would reduce the deficit by $158 billion and cost $23 billion to implement, creating a net savings of $135 billion in those 10 years, CBO predicted.

Direct spending for the Senate-passed version of the gang of eight bill would be higher than the initial prediction by $36 billion, at a final cost of $298 billion over the next decade, CBO reported. Costs of services for unauthorized immigrants -- emergency services, child nutrician programs and refundable tax credits -- would be lower than in the bill that first went to the floor.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the "gang of eight" that drafted the initial bill, said the Corker-Hoeven amendment might add unnecessary resources, but was worth it to get other Republicans on board.

"I don't know if it's totally well-spent," McCain told reporters after Corker and Hoeven announced their deal. "I think that it's important that we do this to give people confidence that we have border security, so in that respect, I think it's well-spent."



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