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Analysis: US bill would cut illegal immigration

July 3, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sweeping U.S. immigration bill recently passed by the Senate and backed by the Obama administration would reduce illegal immigration by one-third to one-half beyond what would happen under existing law, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday

The bill is a top second-term priority for President Barack Obama and the rare piece of legislation to attract some measure of bipartisan support in a bitterly divided Congress.

The bill is now pending in the Republican-led House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future. While some Republicans turned to the immigration issue after Obama was reelected last year on the strength of a growing Hispanic vote, some conservatives oppose anything that they feel grants amnesty to people living illegally in the U.S.

The bill easily passed the Senate last week after senators agreed to change it to greatly boost border security and take steps against people who overstay their visas.

Under the legislation, the new CBO analysis found, there would be around 2.4 million fewer immigrants coming illegally into the country or illegally overstaying their visas over the next 10 years than would happen under current law.

The analysis also said that the legislation would reduce the budget deficit by $158 billion over 10 years and $685 billion in the decade after that. Taxes paid by newly legalized residents, along with other revenue, would outpace new spending for government benefits and other costs under the bill. The measure, if enacted, would cost the government about $23 billion to implement over the first 10 years.

The legislation would double border patrol agents stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border while calling for border fencing and requiring all businesses to check their workers’ legal status. Some 11 million immigrants already here illegally would be able to attain citizenship over 13 years, if they pay fines and taxes and meet certain requirements. New and expanded worker visa programs would allow tens of thousands of new workers into the country for high-skilled and low-skilled professions.

With new visa programs bringing many more workers to the U.S., the bill still would increase the U.S. population by 9.6 million people over a decade, the report said.

Opponents said the report showed the bill doesn’t do enough to stem illegal immigration.

“CBO says that the Senate bill with all its promises about extra enforcement would still allow half the illegal immigration flow to continue,” said Roy Beck, head of NumbersUSA, in a statement. “This CBO finding suggests that by 2020 the illegal population will have grown big enough that presidential candidates will once again be pressed to promise yet another amnesty.”

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Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed.

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