News & Politics

Right-Wing Immigration Foes Get Burned by Reality

The CBO says the Senate immigration bill would lower the deficit by $900 billion over the next 20 years.

Right-wing opponents of immigration reform expected to get a potent weapon when they requested that the Congressional Budget Office score the reforms offered by the Senate “Gang of Eight.” But it turned out to be one of those 'be careful of what you wish for' moments, when CBO projected that the Senate bill would cut the dreaded federal deficit by $197 billion over the next ten years, and $700 billion more in the decade after that.

Cheered on by the Heritage Foundation – which has been squishy on immigration reform in the past and is now trying to shore up its creds with the Tea Party set – Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, one of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform (who only incidentally happens to be a “vile racist”) requested that the CBO analyze the impacts of the law beyond its usual 10-year window.

So they did. In addition to the positive impact on the budget, CBO says 8 million unauthorized immigrants would likely come out of the shadows (after paying $1,000 fine and jumping through some other hoops). By 2023, CBO estimates a small hit of 0.1 percent to native-born workers' wages, but says the reforms would boost native wages by 0.5 percent in 2033.

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Overall, as Ezra Klein puts it:

The bill’s overall effect on the overall economy is unambiguously positive: CBO expects real GDP to increase by 3.3 percent by 2023 and by 5.4 percent in 2033. The reasoning here is a bit more complex: It’s not just that the bill would mean more workers, but that it would mean more productive workers. CBO says that the law would “lead to slightly higher productivity of both labor and capital because the increase in immigration — particularly of highly skilled immigrants — would tend to generate additional technological advancements, such as new inventions and improvements in production processes.”

Sessions was no doubt expecting a very different forecast, because it's a matter of faith in his circles that immigrants are the worst parasites among Romney's mythical 47 percent. This isn't the first time that belief has blown up in nativists' faces either. In the early 1990s, it was anti-immigrant hard-liners who pushed for the creation of the “Jordan Commission” to do a comprehensive study of immigration to the United States. And it, too, found that first and second-generation immigrants pay more in taxes than they take in services and have a net positive impact on native wages (the National Research Council study's book-length findings can be read online here).

Now comes the least surprising news you will ever hear: having requested an analysis which produced results they didn't like, the right is crying foul, and accusing the bipartisan Gang of Eight of cooking the books. “Congress Is Trying to Fool You on Immigration,” reads a headline on Heritage's site this morning. “The bill’s drafters relied on the same scoring gimmicks used by the Obamacare drafters to conceal its true cost from taxpayers and to manipulate the CBO score,” whined Sessions in a press release.

The particulars? Well, Jeff Sessions originally asked that CBO's analysis go out to 2040 instead of 2033! Also, the federal budget watchdog didn't even look at the impact on state and local budgets. (In the dry prose common to CBO analyses, they note that the legislation “would have many other effects (both negative and positive) on the budgets of state, local, and tribal governments, but CBO does not estimate the overall effects of legislation on the budgets of those governments.”)

The first point is rather silly as the very long-term budget projections everyone waves around when debating things like Social Security are about as accurate as reading tea leaves (or, if you prefer, animal guts).

The second issue is entirely valid, even if attacking CBO for not analyzing the impact on Peoria's budget isn't. In 2006, the Texas State Comptroller – a Republican – did the first comprehensive study of the fiscal impact of unauthorized immigration on a state with a very high number of foreign-born. Unfortunately, it only looked at the undocumented. And while it found some significant strain being put on local budgets (much of it from law enforcement), state-wide, “undocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues, which exceeded the $1.16 billion in state services they received.”

Once again, we see those pesky facts at work with their damnable liberal bias.



Joshua Holland is Senior Digital Producer at, and host of Politics and Reality Radio. He's the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter