U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border near Mission, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Alan Gomez, USA TODAY
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%.
The initial CBO found that the bill did little to stop "visa overstays" - people who enter the country legally but overstay the expiration of their visas. And with only a 25% reduction in illegal immigration, Republicans like Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, argued that more needed to be done to reduce that figure.
Wednesday's estimate said changes made to the bill throughout the June floor debate "would strengthen enforcement actions against those who stay in the country after their authorization has expired."
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 CBO, working with the Joint Committee on Taxation to conduct its review, estimated 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.
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.