DeMint Says Immigration Reform Will Cost Trillions

Former Senator Jim DeMint, now president of the Heritage Foundation, claimed on ABC's This Week, that the immigration reform plan released by the "Gang of Eight" seenators, would cost Americans "trillions of dollars."

DeMint was previewing what is expected to be a major report by Heritage on immigration.

ABC News:

The study you’ll see from Heritage this week presents a staggering cost of another amnesty in our country,” DeMint said this morning on “This Week,” based on the “detrimental effects long-term” of government benefits that would eventually go to the millions offered a path to citizenship under the reform legislation currently being considered. “There’s no reason we can’t begin to fix our immigration system so that we won’t make this problem worse. But the bill that’s being presented is unfair to those who came here legally. It will cost Americans trillions of dollars. It’ll make our unlawful immigration system worse.”

A 2007 study by Robert Rector, assuming all undocumented immigrants were granted “amnesty,” said the cost to the United States of immigration reform would be at least $2.6 trillion. When asked if the new Heritage estimate would be more than $2.5 trillion, DeMint responded “much more than that.”

The 2007 study is not without its critics, such as Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, who wrote in April that the study’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.”

DeMint dismissed the criticisms, including estimates by the Congressional Budget Office that say immigration reform will increase economic growth.

“Well, CBO said Obamacare wouldn’t cost us anything. They’re basically puppets of the Congress and the assumptions they put in the bill. Heritage is only organization that has done an analysis on the cost,” DeMint said.

“If you consider all the factors related to the amnesty – and, believe me, this is comprehensive – that it will have a negative long-term impact on our gross domestic product,” DeMint added. “So we just want Congress, for once, to count the cost of a bill. They’re notorious for underestimating the cost and not understanding the consequences.”

DeMint is correct is saying that Congress routinely underestimates the cost of major legislation, as well as ignoring unintended consequences. Recent crimes against the taxpayer in this regard include the prescription drug bill that was passed during the Bush administration and Obamacare -- the cost of which and the consequences that attend it are still being discovered.

In the case of immigration reform, the dilemma is that it is well nigh impossible to gauge how much in taxes and productivity will be added to our economy by suddenly legalized aliens. We don't know how many currently in the US illegally will take advantage of any amnesty. Nor do we know how many of those individuals have been paying taxes all along. Nor is it possible to estimate how many illegals will go on the public dole if they get a green card.

There are just too many variables to take into account to make a guess as to how much immigration reform will cost us. Applause to Heritage for making the attempt, but I think we should look at any study they release as guidance, not gospel.