Illegal immigration into the U.S. could be cut in half by an immigration bill passed by the Senate that includes a “border surge” to secure the Southwest border with Mexico, according a new analysis released Wednesday.
The Congressional Budget Office had previously estimated that the Senate‘s immigration proposal, crafted by a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight, would reduce illegal immigration by about 25%. That proposal would have added 3,500 Customs and Border Patrol officers along the border with Mexico.
But the Senate approved an amendment brokered by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., that would provide $38 billion to double the size of the Border Patrol to nearly 40,000 agents and flood the region with new drones, sensors and surveillance technology. Those additions, the CBO found, could cut illegal immigration by 33-50%.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the members of the Gang of Eight, said in a statement that the CBO analysis “once again vindicated immigration reform and shows how the amendment process improved the bill.”
The new findings were not enough for critics of the bill who fear a repeat of 1986, when Congress passed an immigration law that gave amnesty to the country’s unauthorized immigrants, but failed to fulfill its promise of stopping future waves of illegal immigration.
Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that opposes the bill, said stopping 50% of illegal immigration “still comes up far short of the sponsor’s claim that the bill is the solution to the problem of illegal immigration.”
“Even under the best case scenario – a 50% reduction in illegal immigration – we would still have a very substantial illegal immigration problem in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of new illegal aliens settling here each year,” Mehlman said.
That debate will only be escalated as the bill moves to the Republican-led House of Representatives, where leaders like Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have said they need to see the border secured before even considering granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.
The CBO, working with the Joint Committee on Taxation to conduct its review, maintained its findings from previous reports that the bill would be a net economic gain for the U.S. economy.
Wednesday‘s report found that the bill would reduce federal deficits by about $135 billion over the first decade, due mostly to income and payroll taxes paid by legalized immigrants. Their previous report estimated the bill would reduce deficits by $197 billion, but that was cut back because of the cost of the “border surge” that was added to the bill.
That trend would only increase in the second decade, with a $685 reduction in federal deficits from 2024 to 2033.
The bill passed by the Senate would allow the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, strengthen border security, require all American business owners to use a federal program to check the immigration status of new hires and allow more foreigners trained in high-tech fields and lower-skilled workers to enter the country.
The House is working on different approaches to immigration, but House Speaker John Boehner has said he won’t let his chamber simply take a vote on the Senate bill and will develop their own plan instead.