(WASHINGTON) — The conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, is out with a new report predicting sky-high costs — to the tune of $6.3 trillion — associated with the legalization of about 11 million undocumented immigrants if the “Gang of Eight” bill becomes law.
The report, “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer,” is sure to be fodder for conservative lawmakers concerned about the political costs of supporting an immigration bill.
The “Gang of 8″ immigration proposal proposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and beefs up border security. It was released in April by a bipartisan group of Democratic and Republican senators, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Also among the culprits for the high burden on the U.S. taxpayer, according to Heritage, is President Obama’s health care law and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. Access to public education and public services like police, fire, national parks and roads are also factored into the calculations.
The report claims that although undocumented immigrants will have no access to entitlements in the early stages of the legalization process, they will eventually start drawing benefits that exceed their tax payments.
“Following amnesty, the fiscal costs of former unlawful immigrant households will be roughly the same as those of lawful immigrant and non-immigrant households with the same level of education,” the report states. “Because U.S. government policy is highly redistributive, those costs are very large.”
This year’s analysis of the pending immigration bill more than doubled the 2007 document that put the price tag of legalization $2.6 trillion. It comes as the Senate prepares to review and amend a comprehensive immigration bill this week.
Speaking on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos Sunday, former Republican senator and Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint said that the high costs associated with legalization show that the bill rewards those who came here illegally and punishes legal immigration.
“But the bill that’s being presented is unfair to those who came here legally,” DeMint said. “It will cost Americans trillions of dollars. It’ll make our unlawful immigration system worse.”
Even before its release, critics lined up to point out its flaws.
Alex Nowrasteh, a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, cautioned in a post in April that the 2007 report was riddled with errors that Heritage would be wise to address in its update. Nowrasteh cited several methodological choices that he said overstates the net cost of legalization.
“That 2007 report’s flawed methodology produced a grossly exaggerated cost to federal taxpayers of legalizing unauthorized immigrants while undercounting or discounting their positive tax and economic contributions — greatly affecting the 2007 immigration reform debate,” Nowrasteh wrote.
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Jeremy Diamond, CNN
MJ Lee, CNN Politics Reporter