The Senate Homeland Security committee on Wednesday held its first hearing about President Obama’s immigration executive actions. The hearing and the witnesses testifying focused on the “implications and unanswered questions” about the deportation relief offered to some undocumented immigrants included in the president’s actions.
First, the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary, Stephen C. Goss, provided testimony estimating the impact of President Obama’s actions on the U.S. economy and Social Security trust fund. Goss estimated that due to deferred action, U.S. gross domestic product would increase by 0.15 percent by 2024 and 0.22 percent by 2050. Additionally, by 2024, 925,000 additional workers will be paying payroll taxes. This increase comes from bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows so they can fully pay taxes, and reducing deportations.
Goss’ testimony adds to recent data that demonstrates the economic benefits from the Administration’s deferred action program—reduced deficits, increased payroll tax revenues, and increased wages, for U.S.-born workers as well. Goss stressed, though, the “limited nature” of the economic benefits of deferred action compared to comprehensive immigration reform such as the 2013 Senate legislation. Deferred action would only provide about one-third of the current unauthorized population the opportunity to apply for work authorization, and only a “very limited increase” in legal permanent residents entering the country.
As to the Social Security trust fund, Goss stressed how immigration would positively impact it. Without net immigration of 1 million a year, negative effects on the finances of Social Security and Medicare “would be much more severe.” (Immigrants are generally younger, and have a higher birth rate, than U.S.-born.) The impacts of deferred action would be a “small positive for the next 75 years,” reducing the current Social Security deficit by 0.01 percent of payroll. This is due to “providing legal work authorization to many younger children and their parents in the current population, who will pay additional taxes for several decades,” Goss said.
Senators also raised questions as to USCIS’ processing of deferred action applications. A former USCIS deputy ombudsman raised the possibility of “bottlenecks” from processing extra applications. However, former INS General Counsel Bo Cooper testified that “DHS has the tools and capacity to handle implementation of these programs from a logistical, financial, and enforcement perspective.” DHS now is operating with the “considerable advantage” of having implemented DACA, which gives it a model on which to base its current planning. And as the “new and expanded programs are of course broader” than DACA, Cooper noted that immigration agencies are designed to have “flexibility to scale to evolving caseloads and demands.” USCIS has secured a central processing location site and plans to hire 700 permanent employees and additional contractors.
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