FACT CHECK: WaPo Claims ‘Gang Of Eight’ Immigration Bill Would Have Decreased Legal Immigration

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

The Washington Post claimed the “Gang of Eight” 2013 immigration bill would have decreased long-term legal immigration in a story published Tuesday.

“None of the measures Trump has advocated for is new. Comprehensive immigration bills in 2007, under President George W. Bush, and in 2013, under President Barack Obama, included hundreds of miles of additional border fencing along with reductions, over time, to legal immigration levels,” said the story.

Verdict: False

The Gang of Eight bill would have increased the number of visas available to immigrants and created a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. Multiple analyses found that both the 2013 and 2007 immigration bills would have increased legal immigration in the long term.

Fact Check:

The 2013 immigration bill, dubbed the “Gang of Eight” bill to refer to the four Republicans and four Democrats who sponsored the legislation, would have substantially reformed the immigration system by creating new legal immigration opportunities and increasing border security. While the bill passed in the Senate, the House never acted on the bill and it did not become law.

A WaPo roundup of the bill’s provisions from 2013 noted that it would have created a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, raised the number of high-skilled H-1B visas issued to as many as 180,000, created a new low-skilled guest worker visa program with 75,000 visas and allowed an unlimited number of visas for children, parents and spouses of permanent residents.

The bill’s border security provisions would have required employers to use the E-verify system to ensure employees are in the country legally, allocated $1.5 billion for additional border fencing and instituted an exit/entry tracking system at ports of entry.

Multiple analyses found the bill would have increased the number of legal immigrants in the long term. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the bill would have increased the U.S. population by 10.4 million residents by 2023 and 16.2 million residents by 2033. An extreme estimate from then-Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama found that the bill could have brought the total number of immigrants gaining legal status over 10 years to 57 million.

Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, called the claim that legal immigration would have decreased under the 2007 and 2013 bills “flatly untrue.”

“The most recent effort, the Gang of Eight, would have increased legal immigration by about 50 percent, from about 1 million a year to about 1.5 million. And during the first decade the number would likely have been 2 million, as everyone on the various green card waiting lists was allowed in over and above the various limits,” Krikorian told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

One report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) projected that the bill would have decreased net immigration of both legal and illegal immigrants over time. CAP estimated that the bill would have decreased the number of illegal immigrants entering the country due to increased border security and more visa opportunities. But the same report found that the bill would have increased legal immigration by 44 percent.

Sarah Pierce, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, noted that both bills would have reduced the percentage of immigrant visas going to family-based immigrants. Family members of immigrants with permanent resident status can also earn permanent residency. But the organization didn’t have any data to suggest that the bills would have reduced legal immigration overall.

“In fact, in 2013 we found the Gang of Eight bill would likely increase the number of green cards issued, even for family-based immigrants, despite them receiving a lower share overall,” Pierce told TheDCNF in an email.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesman Ira Mehlman said that family-based immigration, also called chain migration, would have been a key factor in increasing the number of legal immigrants under the Gang of Eight bill. The bill left chain migration largely intact while increasing merit-based opportunities to earn permanent resident status.

“All those people have relatives who would then qualify to get in line. So over time, it probably would have driven up the number substantially,” Mehlman told TheDCNF.

Mehlman said the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which also failed in Congress, would have probably increased legal immigration too. The CBO found that the 2007 bill would have increased the number of legal immigrants, but net population changes would have been negligible after 20 years because of stricter illegal immigration enforcement provisions.

WaPo issued the following correction after publication of this fact check:

“CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that comprehensive immigration bills in 2007 and 2013 would have lowered legal immigration levels over time. Most independent analyses found that legal immigration levels would have increased under the bills.”

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter