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Social Security number-cruncher: immigration bill boosts retirement program, decreases illegal entry

@MarcACaputo

From a press release:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio today welcomed encouraging preliminary findings from the Social Security Administration’s Chief Actuary regarding S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”  According to Chief Actuary Stephen C. Goss, “Overall, we anticipate that the net effect of this bill on the long-range OASDI actuarial balance will be positive. This positive effect for increased immigration is consistent with the sensitivity analysis contained in the 2012 Trustees Report.”

The Actuary’s Office also claims that, over the next 10 years, the legislation will prevent 2 million illegal immigrants from coming to the U.S., create 3.22 million jobs, and increase our gross domestic product by 1.63 percent more than if the status quo is left in place.

“Immigration has always been a net benefit for America, and the actuary’s assessment of the immigration reform legislation is further validation of this,” said Rubio.  “As the immigration reform legislation moves forward, we should improve it to make sure its taxpayer protections are even stronger so that illegal immigrants cannot obtain federal benefits.

“Social Security is already going bankrupt and we need to save it, the same way we do with Medicare,” added Rubio.  “Whether it’s Social Security or immigration, leaving the status quo in place will be disastrous for our country’s future.”

The letter came in response to Rubio’s request for an estimate of the financial effects on the Social Security program of immigration reform legislation.  The letter, which includes several financial projections on page 3, is available here.

Here's the text of the letter:

Dear Senator Rubio:

I am writing in response to your request for estimates of the financial effects on Social Security of S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” as referred to the Committee on the Judiciary on April 17, 2013. We have worked closely with Jon Baselice of your staff to understand the specifics and the intent of the proposal. The preliminary estimates provided in the enclosed Table 1 are based on the intermediate assumptions of the 2012 Trustees Report, with additional assumptions about the evolution of immigration under the proposal. The estimates presented reflect the combined efforts of many in our office, but particularly Alice Wade, Michael Morris, Pat Skirvin, Danielle Huston, Mark Bye, and Christopher Chaplain.

The proposal includes extensive provisions for the treatment of individuals living in the United States without current legal documentation as of December 31, 2011. We estimate that there were about 11.5 million such individuals, of whom about 8 million will apply for and be granted Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. Many of these individuals already work in the country in the underground economy, not paying taxes, and will begin paying taxes upon application for RPI. After 6 years, those with RPI status are required to meet certain requirements to renew RPI status. We assume these requirements will diminish the number applying for RPI status initially and will result in a small decline in the number with RPI status after 2021.

The bill also makes very substantial changes in legal immigration classifications and limits. We have done our best to estimate the effects of these changes with the help of Jon and many others who are working to analyze the bill. We estimate a significant increase in both the population and the number of workers paying taxes in the United States as a result of these changes in legal immigration limits.

Finally, we estimate that the measures in the bill for enforcement of border control and for employment verification will have significant effects on the future number of individuals entering the country without legal authorization. We estimate these provisions will reduce the number entering the country without authorization by about half a million per year by the time the measures are fully implemented.

Please note that these estimates are preliminary and are subject to change in the future as we further develop our estimates. In particular, we are working to develop full 75-year estimates of the implications of the bill as quickly as possible. Over this longer time frame, benefits will become more significant for those with additional earnings taxed and credited. However, over this same longer time frame, the additional births for the increased population under this bill will have substantial positive effects. Overall, we anticipate that the net effect of this bill on the long-range OASDI actuarial balance will be positive. This positive effect for increased immigration is consistent with the sensitivity analysis contained in the 2012 Trustees Report.

Please let us know if we may be of any further assistance. We will provide the expanded long-range estimates as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Stephen C. Goss

Chief Actuary

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