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DREAM Act dollars: A roundup of reports

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Different estimates have been floated around in recent weeks as to what the DREAM Act represents in dollars and cents: How much money it may cost, and how much money it may generate.

Late last week, the Congressional Budget Office scored the most recent version of the bill, which would allow qualifying undocumented youths who arrived here under age 16 to obtain conditional legal status - and eventually permanent legal status - if they attend college or enlist in the military.

The CBO report concluded that over the next 10 years, as the DREAM Act increases the number of authorized workers in the country, revenues would increase by $2.3 billion and the national deficit would decrease by $1.4 billion. However, as conditional legal status gives way to permanent legal status for beneficiaries, they would qualify like other legal residents and U.S. citizens for government programs, including federal health insurance exchanges, adding to the deficit in the long run.

The CBO report is based on the most recent version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and is considered the most up-to-date fiscal assessment. But for the sake of argument, here it is alongside two other recent reports with different conclusions:

Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate, S. 3992: The assessment is based on a tightened version of the DREAM Act introduced Nov. 30, which essentially shrinks the pool of DREAM Act-eligible young people in the country with a lower maximum cut-off age for applicants and more stringent criteria for qualification. Conclusion: The legislation would lower the deficit by $1.4 billion in the short term, though costs would rise in the long term.

Estimating the Impact of the DREAM Act, from the Center for Immigration Studies: This report from the immigration-restriction advocacy organization cites a cost of $6.2 billion a year in tuition subsidies. However, the report is based on the assumption that DREAM Act students would pay cheaper in-state tuition; this decision is left up to individual states, in fact, as the current version of the bill does not mandate in-state tuition. The report is based on an older version that would also have made more people eligible.

No DREAMers Left Behind: The Economic Potential of DREAM Act Beneficiaries, from UCLA's North American Integration and Development Center: Released last month, this report calculated the potential income generated by the estimated number of young people who would benefit from the legislation, arriving at $1.4 trillion in current dollars generated over 40 years. However, this is based on an estimate of 825,000 people receiving legal status under an older, broader version of the DREAM Act; the recently tightened version makes for a smaller pool of beneficiaries.

Both the Senate and the House could vote on the bill tomorrow.