What is the goal of immigration reform?

As Heritage President Jim DeMint put it yesterday, “Any immigration reform should improve the lives, the incomes, and the opportunities” of those who are lawfully in America.

The Gang of Eight’s amnesty proposal does the opposite by burdening taxpayers with supporting unlawful immigrants. The Heritage Foundation’s new report estimates that an amnesty like the Gang of Eight’s bill would cost U.S. taxpayers $6.3 trillion.

“We’re advocating on behalf of those who have come here lawfully and all American taxpayers—this is going to be a huge cost to them, and it will diminish opportunities in the future,” DeMint said on “Your World with Neil Cavuto” yesterday.

The $6.3 trillion number is the cost to taxpayers of supporting unlawful immigrants under amnesty, including any taxes those immigrants would pay into the system versus the amount of government benefits and services they would take out.

On an individual level, the number is just as stunning. As Heritage experts write, “the average adult unlawful immigrant would receive $592,000 more in government benefits over the course of his remaining lifetime than he would pay in taxes.”

Many conservatives believe that if an individual has a job and works hard, he will inevitably be a net tax contributor (paying more in taxes than he takes in benefits). In our society, this has not been true for a very long time.

With amnesty, unlawful immigrants would become lawful—and become eligible for Obamacare benefits, Social Security, welfare, and Medicare. Heritage’s study addresses the costs as they would accrue after the Gang of Eight’s waiting period for benefits:

After 13 years, unlawful immigrants would become eligible for means-tested welfare and Obamacare. At that point or shortly thereafter, former unlawful immigrant households would likely begin to receive government benefits at the same rate as lawful immigrant households of the same education level. As a result, government spending and fiscal deficits would increase dramatically.

This isn’t the only way to reform immigration. As DeMint and study author Robert Rector write in The Washington Post, “A properly structured lawful immigration system holds the potential to drive positive economic growth and job creation. But amnesty for those here unlawfully is not necessary to capture those benefits.”

It is a “false choice,” DeMint said, for people to say that amnesty is necessary to immigration reform.

The American people deserve to hear all sides of this debate—they don’t deserve a gang of Senators pushing through an Obamacare-style bill in the back rooms of Washington.

“Let’s unite the American people by doing this in public, one piece at a time,” DeMint said. “You don’t have to do the amnesty to get all the benefits of reform.”


The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer

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