Politics

Uh-Oh! Budget Agency Sees DREAM Act Adding $26 Billion to Deficit

Congressional Budget Office projects immigrant amnesty would balloon the federal shortfall over 10 years

Granting legal status to young illegal immigrants under the DREAM Act would add $25.9 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported on Friday.

The extra burden on taxpayers mainly is due to increased health insurance costs and spending associated with programs that benefit the working poor. The report adds kindling to the brewing fire about what to do about the people currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was created during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would grant legal status to those recipients — brought to the United States by their parents when they were younger than 16 — along with to a broader group of illegal immigrants who did not qualify for DACA.

DACA opponents seized on the report as one more reason not to codify what they consider an amnesty into law.

“It really flies in the face of the argument that more immigration expands the economy and everything gets better,” said Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA.

Advocates of the DREAM Act largely ignored the report, however.

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“We cannot wait until March,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) tweeted. “The #DREAMAct and protections of #DACA are not light switches we can turn on and off.”

A group of environmental organizations also signed a letter Friday urging passage. “Dreamers are scientists, scholars, lawyers, doctors, advocates, artists, and so much more,” the letter states. “Many have contributed immeasurably to our country, its institutions and communities, and its movements — including the environmental movement.”

About 690,000 people are enrolled in DACA, which President Donald Trump said in March he would wind down. The CBO estimates that 2 million illegal immigrants would gain legal status from the DREAM Act.

[lz_table title=”DREAM Act Costs” source=”Congressional Budget Office”]Projected costs of DREAM Act 2018-2027
|Program,Cost
Insurance,$11.795 billion
EITC/child credits,$5.455 billion
Medicaid,$5.020 billion
SNAP,$2.3 billion
SSI,$920 million
Social Security,$550 million
Medicare,$285 million
Higher ed assistance,$480 million
|
Total,$26.805 billion
|
|Additional revenue
DHS fees,$10 million
[/lz_table]

Attaining legal status would make beneficiaries eligible for a full range of government assistance programs from which they currently are barred. The biggest expense would be health insurance subsidies under Obamacare. The increased costs through 2027 would total $11.795 billion, according to the report.

Spending on the earned income and child tax credits would total about $5.5 billion, while Medicaid spending would increase by $5 billion, according to the budget office.

Other costs are due to use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), the Supplemental Security Income program, Social Security, Medicare, and higher education assistance.

Against all that increased spending, the budget office projects, the Department of Homeland Security would collect about $4 billion in fees — about $10 million more than the costs of implementing the DREAM Act.

The CBO also anticipates that increased reporting of income by people newly authorized to work would modestly boost revenue. The budget office projects that the federal government would collect $700 million in penalties from beneficiaries who choose not to comply with the Obamacare mandate to buy health insurance, although the GOP tax plan headed toward final passage would eliminate that penalty.

The forecasters also anticipate that most revenue gains from increased reporting of income would be offset by increases in deductions by employers that would allow them to report lower profits.

Immigration hardliners have expressed skepticism over how aggressively that rule would be enforced, particularly if future administrations take a softer view than Trump.

The budget office estimates that the 2 million dreamers would sponsor some 80,000 relatives — virtually all of whom already are in the U.S. — for green cards during the 10-year period.

The forecasters conclude that the number of green cards awarded to immediate family members would be limited by a law requiring illegal immigrants to return to their home countries for 10 years before becoming eligible for legal immigration.

Immigration hardliners have expressed skepticism over how aggressively that rule would be enforced, particularly if future administrations take a softer view than Trump does.

“I think it probably underestimates the cost,” said Matthew O’Brien, director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

While Democrats and some Republicans in Congress have been pushing for a “clean” DREAM Act, or something closely resembling it, opponents have urged lawmakers to demand significant concessions in exchange for any amnesty.

Related: Advocacy Group Launches Ads Slamming Chain Migration

Trump has demanded an end to the diversity visa lottery, which awards about 50,000 green cards to applicants chosen at random from countries with historically low levels of immigration to the U.S. He also wants significant restrictions on “chain migration” and other provisions of the proposed Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act.

Other advocates have lobbied for making the authorization background checks known as E-Verify mandatory for all businesses and increased border security measures.

“If they’re going to do that, they need to get at the very least the RAISE Act, E-Verify, and the border wall,” O’Brien said.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter here.

(photo credit, homepage image: DACA Rally SF 2017, CC BY-SA 4.0, by Pax Ahimsa Gethen; photo credit, article image: DACA Rally SF 2017CC BY-SA 4.0, by Pax Ahimsa Gethen)

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