The fiscal scorekeeper for Congress this week said a Senate-passed immigration overhaul would cut $135 billion from the US budget deficit over the next decade and potentially reduce illegal entries by half.
That forecast bolsters another positive projection from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, issued before the Senate’s June 27 vote: Comprehensive immigration changes could add 3.3 percent to the US economy in 2023 and 5.4 percent in 2033.
Senators who voted for the legislation hope its economic benefits will be enough to overcome opposition from conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives. Opponents are demanding stricter security measures along the US-Mexico border before they will consider a plan aimed at clearing the way to citizenship for as many as 11 million people now living illegally in the US.
“Immigration is not just something that is consistent with our values, it is also consistent with growing our economy, increasing jobs and expanding our middle class,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, whose parents moved to the US from Poland when he was a child, told a group of new Americans at a citizenship ceremony on Wednesday.
Lew said that although the current US immigration system opens US colleges and universities to bright foreign students, it forces them to leave the country upon completion of their studies.
China, which annually sends the largest cohort of higher-education students of any country to US campuses (194,000 during the 2012-13 academic year), would seem a logical beneficiary if the changes approved by the Senate clear the House and are signed into law by President Barack Obama.
These include a new, merit-based point scale that gives preference to highly educated immigrants with skills in science, engineering and other fields, or who are entrepreneurs.
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