What are the costs?
Many House Republicans loudly have objected to the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate by a broadly bipartisan 68-32 vote. Characteristically, they have not proposed anything better.
Senate passage was secured when the bill's sponsors substantially increased the amount of money for increased border security - $36 billion over 10 years, effectively doubling the border security force and providing for 700 miles of new security fences.
This week the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the revised bill would reduce illegal immigration by 33 percent to 50 percent over existing law. The earlier version of the bill, according to the CEO, would have reduced illegal immigration by about 25 percent.
Despite the increased enforcement costs of the newly passed bill, it still would provide substantial economic benefits, the CBO said - $158 billion in deficit reduction over the first 10 years and $685 billion in the following decade.
The deficit reduction estimate is crucial because the bill's opponents had claimed that the bill would provide some short-term financial benefits but cost the government over the long term. Implementation would cost $23 billion over the first 10 years, the CBO estimated, substantially less than the value of its economic impact.
As passed by the Senate, the new version of the bill also would address other concerns raised by opponents, while creating a 13-year path to full citizenship for about 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally. For example, it would establish a program to help set up local assimilation programs for immigrants on the path to naturalization, including English instruction.
While complaining about "amnesty," House critics offer nothing other than increased enforcement. The Senate bill not only addresses border control, but converts a problem into an opportunity for the immigrants and for the society, which functions better when everyone can fully participate, rather than live in the shadows.
The bill does needlessly pander to some business interests by allowing relaxed visas for some types of workers without requiring them to exhaust the domestic work force supply.
But on balance it is strong legislation that the House should pass.