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Friday, September 30, 2016

The conservative Heritage Foundation think tank released a heavily disputed study Wednesday, claiming that immigration reform would cost taxpayers a minimum of $6.3 trillion over the lifetimes of the 11 million immigrants who could gain legal status — only to see several Republicans speak out against it, in the latest example of how reform is dividing the GOP.

The study, which was written by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, states that “over a lifetime, the former unlawful immigrants together would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and services and pay $3.1 trillion in taxes,” and stresses that this $6.3 trillion deficit “should be considered a minimum estimate.”

The authors argue that, once immigrants become eligible for more government benefits such as those contained in the Affordable Care Act, the fiscal cost of the bill would skyrocket. “Those who claim that amnesty will not create a large fiscal burden are simply in a state of denial concerning the underlying redistributional nature of government policy in the 21st century,” they write.

The report is very similar to Rector’s 2007 argument, which pegged the cost of immigration reform at $2.6 trillion.

Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint — formerly Senate leader of the right-wing movement that is now working to derail reform — elaborated on the report during a Monday appearance on Fox News.

“The number over the 50-year lifespan of an amnesty for unlawful immigrants, it’s $6.3 trillion to the American taxpayer,” DeMint told host Martha MacCallum. “And we know over time that this is going to increase more debt, increase taxes. That has a depressing effect on our economy. And we know that unlawful immigrants — once that they have amnesty — are going to replace the jobs of many Americans and depress their salaries.”

DeMint and the Heritage Foundation’s claims almost instantly faced a backlash from conservative politicians and economists who question the study’s methodology, and argue that the bill would cost less and raise more revenue than Heritage says. In April, the Cato Institute offered a prebuttal to the Heritage study, noting that Rector counted households instead of individuals, employed static scoring rather than dynamic scoring, and ignored changes to immigration enforcement costs, among other criticisms. In sum, the Koch-founded think tank concluded that the study is “fatally flawed.”

Similarly, after the report was released, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) — a “Gang of Eight” member — tweeted that the new study “ignores economic benefits,” and features “no dynamic scoring.”

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan concurred, noting in a statement that “the Congressional Budget Office has found that fixing our broken immigration system could help our economy grow,” adding, “A proper accounting of immigration reform should take into account these dynamic effects.”

Douglas Holtz-Eakin — who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office under President George W. Bush, and as chief economic policy advisor to Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 presidential campaign — trashed the Heritage study at length in a column for the National Review. As he defended reform as a conservative idea, Holtz-Eakin cited a different Heritage study from 1984, which concluded that “immigrants not only create new jobs indirectly with their spending, they create new jobs with new businesses, which they are more likely than natives to start.” The study also stated that “it is frequently alleged that immigrants no sooner arrive in the U.S. than they become public charges, draining welfare money from the U.S. taxpayers and paying no taxes. Solid evidence gives the lie to this charge.”

The dust-up demonstrates how immigration reform splits the Republican Party. Although influential Republicans such as senators McCain and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have joined the Republican National Committee in stressing the party’s urgent need to renounce the extreme platform that doomed it among Latino voters in 2012, many on the party’s right flank remain unconvinced by the case for reform.

If DeMint and his allies are successful in killing the reform plan, then the political consequences for the party could be dire. Recent polling has found that an overwhelming majority favors immigration reform with a path to citizenship; if the bipartisan Senate plan goes the way of the bipartisan background check plan, then Republicans will struggle even more to convince voters that they are not hopelessly out of touch — and that they deserve to be returned to the White House anytime soon.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

  • John Pigg

    Its really sad that big corporate “conservative” groups are destroying a major political party. In Indiana we had a consistently conservative senator whom outside groups did not approve of, they spent millions of dollars questioning his tenure in the senate and forced him to walk the plank in a brutal primary.

    Fortunately moderate Indiana voters do not care much for political extremism and backed the conservative Democratic challenger.

    Its no secret that interest groups are very influential to passing legislation and pressure key elected officials to see their points of view. But when elected officials know that interest groups have the means and resources to force them out of office they became responsible not to the electorate, but to special interest.

    I can think of no better example of this trend than the Heritage Foundation.

    • Randolph Selig

      I can: the NRA.
      It is the Republican Party’s corporate wing which does the bidding of the special interests. It has succeeded also in duping many liberals into believing it cares about ethnic minorities with ties to countries south of the border.
      It’s all about cheap, abundant labor, emasculated unions and profits, profits, profits.

      • John Pigg

        I disagree, because the NRA does manage to back a number of conservative Democrats. It does have a interest and policy wing, but I would brand this interest group as far narrower and less destructive than the heritage foundation.

        Although the NRA donates to a great many candidates across the board I can think of no race where it invested millions of dollars in deciding a primary winner.

        What are your thoughts?

  • docb

    They are just fighting over which of the republican lies to promote! The usual!

  • charleo1

    When was the last time the Republicans came down on the right
    side of an issue? And, that’s not meant to be a partisan question.
    True, they are united in their opposition of President Barack Obama.
    But, how helpful to the Nation has that proven to be? And, since
    Obama was reelected, we must conclude, on at least this issue,
    the public disagreed with Republicans. Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan
    would not be better, than Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, as President,
    and Vice. But, as far as I can tell, this has not mitigated their policies
    towards a more moderate position, in any way whatsoever. Perhaps,
    this is an indicator, that they are not concerned about the majorities.
    And explain their tin ear, when it comes to the issue of women’s rights.
    The reason, for example, they have no problem with businesses’ health
    plans offering viagra, even the religious businesses. But, insist, birth control,
    being offered as part of the policy, for women, is an attack on religious
    freedom. Again, the majorities disagree. And, also support equal pay for
    equal work. But, true to form, the same Republicans that have no problem
    denying contraceptives to women. Believe, protecting women’s Rights,
    aganist discrimination in the workplace, is just more unwarranted, big
    brother, interference in private business. Another regulation, if you will.
    So, as the GOP is not all that concerned about women, in a general sense.
    And, they find themselves clearly on the wrong side of women. When it
    comes the Nation’s recently poor. The out of work Americans, who had
    never in their lives ask their government for a dime. Found a callous, and disparaging, Republican Party. Far too involved with themselves, and what
    might be necessary, or most effective, to regain their recent political losses.
    Than to stand by those Americans, who were most effected, and harmed,
    by the extraordinary, financial crisis, Middle America did not cause, nor,
    profit from. Another clear indication that perhaps suggests they are
    incapable of governing fairly. Because, what values, and morals does a
    Party share with the majority, that’s willing to take food off the table of it’s
    most vulnerable people, in a time of great hardship? A spiteful, uncaring,
    and immoral one, is the answer. One, I believe, that needs to take a thorough
    inventory of itself. Followed by an earnest soul searching. To find where it
    was, they so terribly lost their way.

  • elw

    Republicans eating their own and digging a deep hole to bury themselves.

  • there is not either party worth our votes anymore, all they can see is the rise of their own bank accounts and most do not give a rats ass what happens to this country or our people. they lie to us, they cheat us, they give themselves raises, do their best to pick the constitution apart, devalue our money, and in general are guilty of treason and are hell bent on our total destruction. there are muslims in high ranking positions in the whitehouse, there are too many illegals of all nationaitlies roaming loose doing god only knows what, there is free welfare to any who want it legal or not, and only a few willing to do more than bitch about it.

    • Lynda Groom

      Can you name at least one of those muslims you say hold high ranking positions in the Whitehouse? Hell bent on our total destruction…seriously?

    • Sand_Cat

      Once again, the challenge (you failed last time). As a beginning, name one Muslim in the white house, as Ms Groom suggests. I’ll say any Muslim, so long as you don’t go for the ridiculous claim that the president is one.
      If you name one, where is your evidence to support the claim?
      If you pull your usual stunt and ignore, why should we listen to anything you write on any subject?

  • montanabill

    Interesting. Not a single mention or story on Benghazi in NM.

  • howa4x

    There will definitely be a split in the Republican party between the professional GOP who know what they need in place to win a national election and the Base who are ideologues and think with a small legislative district mentality, and where the tea party has the most strength. The congressmen are always afraid in these small districts of facing a primary challenge from the right wing of the party. The Base has been lied to for so long and made to fear anything the Democrats say, that is has become harder and harder to reach consensus. Welcome to what the democrats go through with all their disparate stakeholder groups. It should be interesting at best.