FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A bill to restrict welfare for Cuban immigrants would save the U.S. government $2.45 billion over the next decade, congressional analysts estimate.

The proposed legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Sen. Marco Rubio, both Florida Republicans, would make most Cuban immigrants ineligible for refugee money, medical benefits and other assistance unless they prove they are political refugees persecuted by the Castro government.

The Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan budget and economic data for policymakers, studied the proposal and calculated the potential savings. The bill is expected to cut spending by $50 million in the first year, and $2.4 billion more through 2026, Curbelo’s office said.

“With all the talk about paying for Zika virus funding, maybe this is one of the ways we can pay for some of that. But let’s get it done,” Rubio, who is shepherding an identical bill in the Senate, told his colleagues last week.

The legislative proposal followed a Sun Sentinel investigation showing Cubans taking advantage of U.S. welfare then returning to the Communist-led island to visit multiple times or even to live while still collecting U.S. aid.

Large numbers of Cubans are fleeing to the U.S. since the Obama administration renewed diplomatic relations in late 2014. Those who reach land can stay, even if they arrive illegally.

Most say they are coming to find better work opportunities in the U.S., and because they fear the U.S. will eventually end their special status and unique advantages as newcomers.

After a year and a day they can become permanent U.S. legal residents. Many then go back and forth between the U.S. and Cuba to visit and bring money or goods to family and friends.

These return trips have raised questions about why Cubans are treated as political refugees when they quickly return to the island. Immigrants from most other nations are barred from collecting aid in the U.S. for their first five years. Those here illegally are not eligible at all.