Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The CBO Breaks Down the Immigration Bill

Nobody really likes to cite the Congressional Budget Office unless it agrees with what they think. Their latest study provides some very important points for the discussion, however.

The Washington Post provides a quick roundup of the financial impact.

The Senate's embattled immigration bill would raise government spending by as much as $126 billion over the next decade, as the government begins paying out federal benefits to millions of new legal workers and cracks down on the border, a new Congressional Budget Office analysis concludes.

Law enforcement measures alone would necessitate the hiring of nearly 31,000 federal workers in the next five years, while the building and maintenance of 870 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers would cost $3.3 billion. Newly legalized immigrants would claim nearly $50 billion in federal benefits such as the earned income and child tax credits, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The cost of the enforcement measures are easily dwarfed by the cost associated with the extra federal benefits that would be provided as a result of the legislation.

Interestingly, I did not see the numbers in this report outlying the costs associated with the hiring of any bureaucracy needed to register, monitor, and assimilate 12 million illegal immigrants into the general population. Assuredly, this could not be accomplished with the pieces currently in place, even with the addition of 1000 border patrol agents. Come to think of it, I have not seen ANY analysis of what would be required in this area. This should be a tremendous red flag about the quality of the bill, as it is central to the plan having any type of success at all. Without a realistic hard look at these details, it is hard to believe that the authors of the bill are operating in good faith, or are serious about implementing ALL of the provisions of the bill.

The Washington Times has the other half of the story:

The Senate's immigration bill will cut annual illegal immigration by just 25 percent, and the bill's new guest-worker program could lead to at least 500,000 more illegal aliens within a decade, Congress' accounting arm said yesterday.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in its official cost estimate that many guest workers will overstay their time in the plan, with the number totaling a half-million in 2017 and reaching 1 million a decade later.

"We anticipate that many of those would remain in the United States illegally after their visas expire," CBO said of the guest-worker program.

In a blow to President Bush's timetable, the CBO said the security "triggers" that must be met before the guest-worker program can begin won't be met until 2010. Mr. Bush had hoped to have those triggers -- setting up a verification system, deploying 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents and constructing hundreds of miles of fencing and vehicle barriers -- completed about the time he leaves office in January 2009.
If these estimates are correct, the bill is nowhere near as "comprehensive" as we were led to believe. I would certainly welcome a war over the definition of "comprehensive" over the definition of "amnesty" as I feel it is far more helpful for the direction of the overall debate.

Of further note in the article is the following:

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the top Republican in the negotiations for the grand bargain, yesterday laid out the "killer" amendments he said will break the grand bargain and cause him to have to oppose the bill: creating a separate employer-sponsored system of up to 300,000 new green cards; giving temporary workers a path to citizenship; and changing the dates or definitions to allow broader family migration.

Mr. Kyl said if any of those passed, "I certainly would not support the legislation, I would do everything I can to get it defeated."

The calvary could certainly use someone on that lead charger, Jon. I understand your earnestness in trying to solve the problem. This bill, however, in not anything approaching what you or any of its sincere reporters were led to believe. And you just don't have to take the activist's word for it anymore.

UPDATE-- That's embarrassing!! Indeed, there is an outlay made for additional federal bureaucracy:

To accommodate the sharp increase in applications for immigration services and documentation that would result from S. 2611, DHS would need to expand its document-production facilities, enhance its computer systems, and hire new employees to process applications. S. 2611 would authorize the appropriation of such sums as necessary for those actions. Based on information from DHS, CBO estimates that the department would require funding of about $800 million in fiscal year 2007 for one-time costs relating to facilities and computer systems. For this estimate, we assume that the costs of new personnel would be covered by fees collected for the new applications.

So 800 million for computers, then everything else would be paid by fees. I hope that someone didn't have other plans for those fees and penalties. It still seems a bit evasive to me. The "authorize the appropriation of such sums as necessary for those actions," without any idea what those costs will be, scares me, quite frankly.


Sirocco said...

Well, the figures you and the Post cite look accurate to me. They also look less than thorough.

First, the cost of "enforcement measures" is most certainly NOT "dwarfed" by the cost of extra federal benefits for new immigrants. Nearly the entire amount estimated to be appropriated, $63.8 billion (or, in other words, more than half of the expected total outlay) is anticipated to go towards enforcement -- everything from more detention facilities to prosecution costs to additional personnel. Table 6 on page 30 has all the figures.

The expected changes in direct costs (Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, etc.) comes to $53.6 billion (see table 3 on page 7). Again, note this figure is actually _less_ than the expected enforcement costs.

Further, while $53.6 billion is no trivial amount, what neither the Post nor you manage to mention is expected increase of $65.7 billion in tax revenue (table 5, page 27). Put another way, new immigrants are actually estimated to _add_ $21.1 billion dollars more to the income structure than they take out.

The document does discuss costs of administering the proposed guest worker program under System for Verifying Employment Eligibility (pg. 35) and Other Programs (pg. 35). Total over ten years is roughly $1.4 billion.

Sirocco said...

Heh ... correction to some typos above. In the next-to-last paragraph it should be add $12.1 billion, not $21.1 billion, I reversed the 1st two numbers. In the last graph, the Other programs section is page 37 (if I recall correctly) not page 35.

Framer said...


If I read the bill correctly, the cost estimates are for standardized immigrants only. I do not believe it is even figuring for the cost of those choosing to still be illegal. If the bill is only going to reduce illegal immigration by 25%, the costs are vastly understated.

Should "family chaining" be increased in preference to the proposed skills point system by ammendment to this bill, the costs of this bill will increase, and expected revenue decrease.

Additionally, if you take the 62.1 billion expected for Income and Social Insurance Taxes, and subtract 53.6 billion total in direct spending for federal program spending to 2016, I get 8.5 billion over a 9 year stretch. That is not very much, Especially if you figure on adding 4.3 million legal permanent residents. That is just over 2,000 per resident many of them for the entire 9 year period to cover federal spending not directly federal aid related. Not really a good deal to the other tax payers.

And you still have barely made a dent in the illegal immigration problem, even assuming the enforcement provisions have some bite.

Its a bad bill, even if you consider that the enforcement provisions will be pursued in good faith, which I don't.

*I do reserve the right to revise and extend any mathematical calculations made in this comment.

Sirocco said...


I get the $12.1 billion figure from the CBO's own figures. Either way, it's still more money taken in than going out -- something the Post article conveniently overlooks.

I agree if family-chaining increases the costs will increase as well. I am on record as opposing any increase in family chaining, and I hope it won't occur.

The "only" 25% reduction figure is largely predicated on the assumption most guest workers will remain in country once their visas expire. It seems obvious (to me at least) that if you made it a focus to prevent this (and you would have data as to when the individuals were set to expire, where they resided and where they worked) it would be relatively straight-forward to lower that figure.

The bill itself may have some bad points to it, but I think the general construction of it represents a good basis for a final agreement somewhere in there.

I am curious as to your enforcement concerns. If you don't think anything is likely to be seriously enforced anyway, then whats the point of even including any enforcement provisions in any bill?

Framer said...


There IS no point in including them in the bill. I don't believe that the enforcement provisions will be ignored carte blanche, but they will be under-funded and under mandated until eventually we are in the same situation that we are now. There is absolutely no credibility on the part of the federal government in enforcing immigration law in any fair, systematic fashion.

Indeed, there is little in the enforcement measures that is not already on the books. These are the law NOW (I'll get to that in a separate post.) A defeat of the bill and enforcement of existing law would actually be the best that could be hoped for from a conservative point of view. All we would need is the right Republican nominee to be President, and that could happen despite Democratic control of Congress.

Now obviously, if enforcement goes well, I would like to see a revamping of immigration law in line with the points system, and a clearing of the backlog for legal immigration. Our social systems will need highly-skilled, tax paying individuals to fund them into the future as our birthrate continues to decrease. Honestly, this bill is not set up to do this effectively.

We gave amnesty a shot and the problem wasn't fixed. It would be nice to see real employer sanctions and border enforcement tried before we throw our hands up in the air and quit.

Sirocco said...

Coolness! Removing the extra enforcement provisions saves $65 billion!

Anyhow, there is a case to be made for opposing the bill (and I see you have a new post I haven't looked over yet), but trying to do it based on partial financial claims and ignoring the estimates that don't support such claims (which the Post article most definitely did) is _not_ the way to go about it.