Amnesty will cost American taxpayers at least $6.3 trillion in welfare and other public benefits, according to a Heritage Foundation study.
Former Republican senator Jim DeMint, now president of the foundation, announced the results of the study at a news conference this morning.
Jason Richwine studies empirical data for the Domestic Policy Studies Department at Heritage and is co-author of the study along with Senior Research Fellow Robert Rector. He says the math is pretty simple.
“We looked at all spending that’s federal, state and local and we looked at all the taxes that immigrants pay in. After that it’s a matter of subtraction, the taxes that are paid and the benefits that are received,” Richwine told WND. “The biggest categories that contribute to the fiscal deficit are public education and the federal means-tested programs that immigrants will receive after amnesty as well as what happens in the future with retirement, especially Social Security and Medicare.”
Rector, who said if the current reform proposal is adopted, illegal aliens granted amnesty would be eligible for more than 80 different welfare programs during the course of their lives.
The $6.3 trillion amount is calculated by first adding the cost of Obamacare, Social Security and the 80 welfare programs for which amnestied illegal aliens would be eligible. That amount is then reduced by the estimated taxes that would be paid.
By way of comparison, the total government debt is $16 trillion, so the cost of amnesty is equivalent to 40 percent of the nation’s total debt.
Rector emphasized repeatedly that $6.3 trillion dollars is a “very, very low estimate.”
The $6.3 trillion estimate assumes that there are only 11 million illegal aliens in the country and that there will be no growth in the cost of welfare benefits.
A typical illegal alien household, if amnesty were granted, would receive $3 in benefits for every dollar it pays in taxes.
Richwine also points out that the numbers assume that only people already here would be receiving benefits over time and that the flood of illegals along the southern border would be dealt with effectively.
“What we’re looking at is the number of illegal immigrants who were here in 2011, these are the ones who are eligible for the amnesty. That’s the group we’re looking at. We are not looking at any additional immigrants. That leads to my thinking that we are being rather conservative about this. Not only could this encourage further illegal immigration down the road, which will cost money, but the the bill being proposed right now actually allows for more people to come here to get what’s called registered provisional status who are not even here currently,” said Richwine.
The report is posted online.
Rector’s research has played a crucial role in major policy debates. He was an author of 1996 welfare reform bill. His 2007 study on the amnesty proposal that year “helped kill the McCain-Kennedy amnesty push,” as Mark Krikorian wrote in National Review.
Among the new report’s major findings:
- A typical immigrant who is granted amnesty will receive state benefits for 50 years. The Heritage report shows that those former illegal aliens will obtain $592,000 more in total benefits than they pay in taxes during their lifetime.
- Over the course of their lives, formerly unlawful immigrants together would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and services and pay $3.1 trillion in taxes, for a lifetime “fiscal deficit” – at minimum – of $6.3 trillion (total benefits minus total taxes). That $6.3 trillion will be paid “by the U.S. taxpayer,” Rector said at the news conference.
The high cost of amnesty will be driven by the low education level of so many illegal immigrants.
“[T]he typical unlawful immigrant has only a 10th-grade education. Half of unlawful immigrant households are headed by an individual with less than a high school degree, and another 25 percent of household heads have only a high school degree,” the report notes.
Rector looked at the amount of taxes paid by an average illegal alien household and compared it with the dollar amount of benefits received. The resulting amount is what he calls the “net fiscal deficit.” As the chart below shows, the average illegal alien household will receive $14,000 more from the government than it contributes in taxes.
The cost per illegal immigrant household would double under amnesty, according to the report.
Previous WND reporting has noted amnesty’s impact on the American work force.
In what will likely be the authoritative estimate of amnesty’s cost, the 102-page Heritage Foundation report is sure to be hotly debated and will be the centerpiece of discussions about the consequences of amnesty.
DeMint said that the U.S. needs an immigration system that encourages “patriotic assimilation.”
He said that immigration can have economic benefits, but “amnesty for those who are here unlawfully is not necessary to capture those benefits.”
Previous estimates by Rector, without yet taking the full range of welfare benefits into account, placed the cost of amnesty at $2.5 trillion, which was the estimated cost of the defeated 2007 amnesty proposal.
As Rector pointed out, the $6.3 trillion is a low estimate. Among other assumption, figure assumes that there will be “no cheating” of the amnesty system.
Rector pointed out that during the 1986 amnesty, 25 percent of those who received amnesty were not eligible.
WND recently reported U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that “creating a mechanism for [illegal aliens] to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows … is a matter of civil and human rights.”
Holder also said that the federal government will work hard “to safeguard the rights of language minorities.”
The claims are likely to add fuel to the growing controversy over the Senate amnesty proposal.
Holder made the remarks in an April 24 speech to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Awards Gala. MALDEF’s notable activity includes suing Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and opposing Arizona’s immigration law.
Holder said, “[I]t is long past time to reform our immigration system in a way that is fair; that guarantees that all are playing by the same rules.”
However, one of the primary criticisms of amnesty is that it does not treat all immigrants with the same rules. Instead, according to critics, amnesty would reward illegal aliens by allowing them to bypass established procedures required for legal entry.
See Holder’s comments:
Heritage also pointed out unlawful immigration appears to depress the wages of low-skill U.S.-born workers by 10 percent.
The report noted that even if all of the children of all of the illegal aliens “graduated from college, they would be hard-pressed to pay back $6.3 trillion in costs over their lifetimes.”
“Regrettably … at every stage of the life cycle, unlawful immigrants, on average, generate fiscal deficits (benefits exceed taxes). Unlawful immigrants, on average, are always tax consumers; they never once generate a ‘fiscal surplus’ that can be used to pay for government benefits elsewhere in society. This situation obviously will get much worse after amnesty.”
The report said that along with direct benefits of Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and other programs, there also are more than 80 programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical and other services to low-income Americans.
Among a few are food stamps, the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, public housing, Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Also subsidized for low-income families are public schools, police, fire, highways, parks and other services.