The budget deficit and the federal debt are priorities for Congress, which is torn between social benefit spending cuts and tax increases. Now there is a new option to cut the deficit: comprehensive immigration reform.
A recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), whose job is to impartially evaluate the cost of proposed bills, estimated that S. 744 will legalize almost 8 million people. The CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT)—whose function is similar to the CBO’s, but involving taxes—calculated that the immigration bill will cost $262 billion from 2014–2023, and that federal revenue will increase $459 billion in the same period. Therefore, the reform will bring in $197 billion in 10 years.
Many numbers get thrown around in the immigration debate, and they are positive and negative about the economic impact of legalizing the undocumented. However, there is no doubt, for practical purposes, that the CBO and the JCT have the numbers right.
This is a significant amount of money that should help the House of Representatives in its efforts to cut the deficit.
The reform represents much more efficient savings than cutting $1.3 billion in community development funding focused on low-income neighborhoods and housing. It is also higher than the $21 billion—in 10 years—that lawmakers are trying to save by making cuts in the food stamps program that will impact almost 2 million low-income people, mostly the working poor, children and retirees.
The funds that the reform will bring in can prevent many budget cuts that the House of Representatives has proposed. The issue is that this contradicts two predominant but false principles: that cutting spending is the only way to balance the budget and that the undocumented are a burden to taxpayers.
Unfortunately, it seems that the House majority is not sincere enough in its intentions to resolve the deficit to accept immigration reform based on its economic impact—or is it so fiercely anti-immigrant to prefer a deficit and a fiscal crisis instead of legalizing the undocumented?