The so-called “Gang of Eight” U.S. senators pushing for immigration reform was bolstered last week by a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that said the bill would reduce federal budget deficits by up to $200 billion over the next decade.
Legalized immigrants, the report said, would consume about $262 billion in government spending while contributing $459 billion in revenue. The report added that the bill would increase economic productivity and raise wages across the workforce 0.5 percent by 2033.
The CBO’s report predictably drew fire from those who have a stake in seeing the Senate bill defeated. Among the most strident CBO critics is the Heritage Foundation, whose own study of the bill in May estimated it would cost taxpayers $5.38 trillion over the next 10 years.
“Amnesty for illegal immigrants is the first order of business,” the group said in a media release. “This is the wrong way to address a serious issue with trillions in taxpayer dollars at stake.”
But the right-leaning group’s study was lambasted for the dubious math behind its so-called “dynamic scoring.” Heritage’s study, for example, counts the education of all children of legalized immigrants as an additional cost, ignoring the fact that many such children are already attending public schools and consuming their resources today.
Heritage’s study also ignores the increased workforce efficiency legalized immigrants would provide, and assumes that their earnings couldn’t increase throughout their lifetimes.
But despite a shaky factual footing, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., took a stand against the bill Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“The numbers in the bill, the lack of enforcement effectiveness in the bill, puts us in a position where it will impact all Americans that are out there working today adversely,” Sessions said. “And the CBO has said that. The Federal Reserve in Atlanta has said that. Harvard economists have said that. There’s really little doubt about that.”
The CBO actually said the opposite. And the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta spokeswoman Jean Tate said flatly this week the bank “has not studied the impact of any particular legislation.”
Sessions’ office cited a 2008 paper by two of the bank’s researchers, which said illegal immigrants’ “limited employment and grievance opportunities” allow employers to exploit them, which drives industry-wide wages downward. Furthermore, the paper recommends “changing the legal status of undocumented workers. Extending to all immigrants the same employee rights afforded documented workers would eliminate a primary source of the measured downward wage pressure in industries that hire undocumented workers.”
Opponents of immigration reform are running low on data that supports the status quo. As Congress moves toward an agreeable bill, let’s hope lawmakers see this as a problem worth solving.