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The Immigration Bill's '$6.3 Trillion Price Tag'

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: abuse, americans, congress, corruption, dishonesty, immigration, politics, propaganda )

- 1810 days ago -
Critics of the bill are wrongly using a Heritage Foundation study to make claims about the legislation's cost.

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Kit B (276)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 7:26 am


Critics of a bipartisan Senate bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration system falsely claim that it will cost an additional $6.3 trillion, citing a study by a conservative group that opposes the bill. However, the report is not an analysis of the bill, and it says the cost of keeping the status quo “could run into the trillions” – so the net cost would be substantially lower than $6.3 trillion.

Here are the problems we found with what Sen. David Vitter calls the bill’s “$6.3 trillion price tag”:
◾The Heritage Foundation, which produced the study, began its analysis months before the Senate plan was unveiled. The report’s lead author says some aspects of the bill, such as increasing green cards or legal permanent residence visas for high-skill workers, would likely lower the cost projection.
◾The report says the total cost of providing “amnesty” to immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally is $6.3 trillion over 50 years, but the “net increased fiscal costs” are $5.3 trillion. Furthermore, the net cost does not take into account what the report calls “a loophole in existing law” that would allow many immigrants to gain citizenship and tap government programs at a cost that “could run into the trillions.” So, even by the report’s own estimate, the net cost – compared with the cost of doing nothing — could be far less than $6.3 trillion or even $5.3 trillion.
◾The Heritage cost estimate is over 50 years, a fact that immigration bill critics generally leave out when citing the report. Many economists warn that projecting costs over such a long period is highly speculative — it assumes no changes in the already unsustainable Social Security or Medicare programs, for example.
◾Heritage used less optimistic assumptions than the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office did when it projected the cost of a similar immigration plan in 2007. The CBO, which has yet to complete an analysis of the current bill, concluded that the 2007 bill would have had a “relatively small net effect on the federal budget” over 20 years.
◾The Heritage report counts the cost of benefits paid to the children of those living in the U.S. illegally, even though many of those children by law are citizens.

Back in 2007, a similar report from the conservative Heritage Foundation that warned of the high cost of “amnesty” legislation helped to doom the fate of a bipartisan immigration bill. With the Senate currently considering the so-called Gang of Eight’s immigration bill, Heritage released a much-anticipated updated version of the 2007 report. This time, Heritage projects that an immigration plan that includes a “path to citizenship” will cost American taxpayers $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years.

Opponents of the Senate bill quickly seized on the report as evidence that the U.S. simply cannot afford the immigration bill.

Proponents of the bill — which notably included a number of Republicans who typically align ideologically with Heritage — dismissed the study as flawed and misleading. The report also came under fire from a number of conservative and libertarian think tanks. Most accuse the authors of the Heritage report of discounting the positive effects that immigration reform could have on the overall economy.

Assumptions lie at the heart of every economic forecast, and we’ll help you sort through some of the biggest ones that underpin and guide the Heritage forecast.


The methodology of the Heritage report, which is called “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer,” is pretty straightforward. Most low-income, lower-educated households are net tax “consumers,” meaning they receive more in government services and payments than they pay in taxes. In 2010, the report says, households in the U.S. headed by persons without a high school degree received — on average — $46,582 in government benefits while paying only $11,469 in taxes, resulting in a net average budget drain of $35,113. That’s critical, the report states, because “the typical unlawful immigrant has only a 10th-grade education.”

Those who have come to the U.S. illegally — even though they are not eligible for such government programs as welfare, Social Security and Medicare — are already a drain on American taxpayers, the report states, because their children are students in taxpayer-funded public schools, and those same children are eligible for medical benefits and other services. In addition, the report states, “when unlawful immigrants live in a community, they use roads, parks, sewers, police, and fire protection.”

Heritage, May 6: In 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes. This generated an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household. This cost had to be borne by U.S. taxpayers. Amnesty would provide unlawful households with access to over 80 means-tested welfare programs, Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare. The fiscal deficit for each household would soar.

According to the report, that net loss would decline in the first 13 years after an immigration bill is signed because immigrants who apply for provisional status are expected to contribute more in taxes, while they still would not be eligible for government programs like welfare and Medicare. It is expected that it will take at least 13 years for immigrants to gain full citizenship. But after that point, the Heritage report states, “former unlawful immigrant households would likely begin to receive government benefits at the same rate as lawful immigrant households of the same education level,” and government spending and deficits “would increase dramatically.”

Heritage: 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. They would generate a lifetime fiscal deficit (total benefits minus total taxes) of $6.3 trillion. (All figures are in constant 2010 dollars.) This should be considered a minimum estimate.

“These individuals don’t pay in as much as they take out,” Heritage Senior Research Fellow Robert Rector, lead author of the report, told us in a phone interview. The U.S. has a highly distributive system, he said, and those without a high school education — on average — are a net drain on government spending, while those with a college degree are net contributors to government coffers. “If an immigrant with a 10th grade education isn’t a federal cost, then no one is,” Rector said.

Not a Study of Gang of Eight Bill

Critics of the Senate bill — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act — have repeatedly, and erroneously, referred to the Heritage study as an analysis of the bill.

Immigration bill opponent Sen. Jeff Sessions issued a statement on the report:

Sessions, May 6: The study released today by Heritage about the costs of the Gang of Eight’s proposed amnesty should be heeded by all lawmakers. The study puts to rest the contention that the bill will benefit American taxpayers, reduce our deficits, or strengthen our already endangered Social Security and Medicare programs. At a time when our nation’s major entitlements are already nearing bankruptcy, we cannot afford to add another $6.3 trillion in long-term net costs to already over-burdened state, local, and federal governments.

Sen. David Vitter, also an opponent of the immigration bill released this statement:

Vitter, May 6: A $6.3 trillion price tag should completely disqualify the Gang of 8 proposal, even without the amnesty. Our federal debt severely threatens our economy as it is now. The last thing we should be doing is granting amnesty to illegal immigrants, giving them all the taxpayer funded benefits and advantages of citizenship, while completely turning our back on enforcement.

But as Rector explained to us in a phone interview, “This analysis isn’t of the whole immigration bill.”

Heritage began its study in November, long before the Senate bill was unveiled. Rather, Rector said it is an analysis of unlawful immigration and amnesty. “Other aspects of the bill are outside the scope of what I studied,” Rector said.

In particular, he said, the bill’s plan to add more visas for high-skill workers “could partially offset some of the other costs.”

Rector said he will update his study to incorporate some of the details of the Gang of Eight plan, but that it could take another six months.

$6.3 Trillion Compared with What?

And, while opponents of the Senate immigration bill have frequently cited the $6.3 trillion figure from the Heritage report, few have noted how much more it might cost compared with keeping things as they are now.

You have to wade into the study a bit — to page 29 of the 92-page report — to find an estimate of how much illegal immigration costs under current law. In other words, what would it cost if Congress doesn’t do anything? According to the Heritage report, the “lifetime fiscal costs of unlawful immigrants under current law are comparatively low: only around $1 trillion. The net increased fiscal costs generated by amnesty would be around $5.3 trillion ($6.3 trillion minus $1 trillion.)”

However, there is an important caveat to the “current law” estimate of $1 trillion. The Heritage report on page 30 assumes “most unlawful immigrants will return to their country of origin around age 55.” But according to the Heritage report itself, that’s not how things work under current law. As the report explains:

Heritage report, May 6, page 30: There is a loophole in existing law that may allow many or most current unlawful immigrants to achieve lawful status and obtain benefits from the welfare system, Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, and Medicaid. … The loophole in existing law is the open-ended provision of green cards to the foreign-born parents of U.S. citizens. A majority of adult unlawful immigrants have children who were born in the U.S. When these children reach age 21, they can immediately demand that their unlawful immigrant parents be given a green card (legal permanent residence) as parents/immediate relatives. The number of green cards (or visas for legal permanent residence) available to parents is unlimited, and the visas will be granted almost automatically.

Once the parent spends five years in legal permanent residence, he immediately becomes eligible for welfare and citizenship. As a legal resident, the parent may also be given credit in the Social Security system for work performed previously as an unlawful immigrant. This would contribute to future eligibility for Social Security and Medicare benefits.

If millions of unlawful immigrants utilize the parent visa option in the future and thereby obtain legal permanent residence and/or citizenship, the cost to the taxpayers could run into the trillions.

Thus, ironically, the increased fiscal costs generated by amnesty may be reduced by the fact that many unlawful immigrants already have potential long-term access to Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, and means-tested welfare through a loophole in current law.

The “loophole” doesn’t work exactly as Rector described, according to immigration law experts with whom we spoke.

It’s certainly true, according to the 14th Amendment, that an immigrant’s child who is born in the U.S. is a citizen by birthright. And it’s also true that once that child turns 21, he or she can sponsor the parents to become citizens as well. But according to Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney for the Immigration and Immigrant Rights Program at the Asian American Justice Center, the parents would have to return to their home country for at least 10 years before returning to the U.S. (something an immigrant living unlawfully in the U.S. for more than 21 years is unlikely to want to do).

It is possible such parents might apply for a waiver — based on a financial hardship to the citizen household — to reduce or eliminate the need for the parent to leave the country, but such a waiver is hardly automatic. Whether “millions” of immigrants in the U.S. might seek to obtain citizenship through sponsorship from their children, and whether the cost of those immigrants remaining might “run into the trillions” is highly speculative. It’s also highly unlikely that most immigrants currently living in the U.S. will return to their homeland at age 55, as Rector assumes.

More broadly, the point is that estimating the cost of illegal immigration under current law is highly speculative, and the Heritage projection of $6.3 trillion is not net of how much illegal immigration would cost if the U.S. does nothing.

As Rector himself wrote in the report, “It does not represent the increased fiscal costs caused by amnesty alone. The increased lifetime costs caused by amnesty would equal $6.3 trillion minus the estimated lifetime fiscal costs of unlawful immigrant households under current law. Calculating the latter figure is not easy.”

But even by Rector’s calculation, the “net” cost of the “path to citizenship” legislation — the cost over and above the current cost — could be “trillions” of dollars less than $6.3 trillion.

The Projection Is Over 50 Years

When citing the Heritage study and the $6.3 trillion price tag, few immigration bill opponents mention one of the biggest caveats: that the report looks at the cost over the next 50 years. Rector says it is necessary, and appropriate, to look over such a long term because the bulk of the cost will hit in the later decades of the 50-year window, as immigrants now here illegally become legal residents and ultimately become old enough to tap retirement benefits like Social Security and Medicare.

Some economists caution, however, that economic forecasts over such a long period of time are highly speculative.
***Continue reading at VISIT SITE ***

by Robert Farley | Fact Check | Annenberg Foundation

Full analysis and foot notes given at VISIT SITE

JL A (281)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 8:33 am
Since when does the Heritage Foundation's perversion of research ethics and intentionally biased usage of statistics have any credibility?

Kit B (276)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 11:44 am

Only to republicans and their extreme right arm, the tea bags, J L. It's amazing what those people will call research.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 4:59 pm
I also have thought that by now people would have learned to start running when ever hearing the name of Heritage foundation. Thx. horrible..intentional lies.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 5:01 pm
Sadly, as usual the people who NEED to read this, won't or won't even believe a fact check. Guess a remedy for bias and prejudice has yet to be found.

Judy C (97)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 5:06 pm
This would be laughable if a lot of clueless people wouldn't believe it.

Past Member (0)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 5:11 pm

Billie C (2)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 8:08 pm
cost isn't the issue law is. illegals are criminals and why should we give law breakers a free pass along with all their kin. no more free passes we tried it once before and that was for 3 million illegals look what that got us 11 million of them now. people wait for years to come here the right way. that's the part of the law that needs to be fixed not giving illegals the right to stay here.

Sherri G (128)
Monday June 10, 2013, 12:57 am
Republicans - Blah Blah Blah Ginger no one hopefully buys the immigration law will cost 6.3 Trillion. Come on Man. Corporations stashing their money in other countries to evade US taxes that is costing us trillions. Not allowing employees union representation or health benefits that is costing us trillions. Republican diatribes are so predictable but I am not happy with democrats right now either trying to cut social security after promising they wouldn't. I am watching all of their voting records on legislation closely and tweeting them every day about how dissatisfied I am with them. Thanks Kit Noted.

Robert K (31)
Monday June 10, 2013, 5:27 am
Grow up Billie, people who were brought here as babies may be illegals, technically, but they know no other country. Perhaps you should be sent to Ukraine juat so you can know what it would be like for those you think should be treated as criminals for not having been given a choice.

I'm always amazed by the total lack of empathy or morals by the right wingers. What a bunch of worthless twits. MAYBE you have a case regarding the parents who brought them here, but not against those brought with no say in the case.

Another thing to consider is the reason they think it was alright to come is the fact that Reagan allowed all of those illegals amnesty so that his corporate supporters could have cheap, lower than minimum wage employees.

paul m (93)
Monday June 10, 2013, 6:31 am


paul m (93)
Monday June 10, 2013, 6:38 am


paul m (93)
Monday June 10, 2013, 6:39 am


jan b (5)
Monday June 10, 2013, 7:42 am
The facts are disturbing when the US would need to add between 250,000 and 300,000 jobs a month to achieve real reductions in the unemployment rate. Not even counting those who already are working and are underemployed. In NYC alone, a recent poll showed 40% of those living in homeless shelters have a job but cannot afford living expenses on the outside on the salary they receive.
What I"m saying is that the USA isn't ready to take a real hard position on illegals and immigration that is necessary to get this country back on SOLID ground. If we deport the young who came here not of their fault---at least they would be educated and taking that back to the country of their parent's origin. I'm not for allowing illegals to get citizenship at all and I'm always taking the liberal-position except in this case where it's common sense we need to worry about our citizens FIRST PRIORITY.

Tim M (0)
Monday June 10, 2013, 11:24 am
You know I am so sick of hearing all you 2 party people blaming, name calling and acting like you are the party of the Moral High Ground. Illegal, is illegal is illegal. I am sorry officer but you see even tough I am guilty for running that stop sign all us drivers are going to get together and scream stop sign running discrimination. You are not picking on those who stop for the stop sign and therefore you are discriminating against my kind.

Kit B (276)
Monday June 10, 2013, 11:49 am

Sick of us? That can be fixed, don't come around.

Tim M (0)
Monday June 10, 2013, 12:09 pm
Really, you cant read, it says sick of hearing, blaming, name calling and finger pointing... wow. comprehension issues.

Kit B (276)
Monday June 10, 2013, 12:29 pm

Tim, it may surprise you to learn that your opinions are no more important or relevant than any other person here at Care2. I do realize from reading your comments that you are unaware of that little fact, though a fact nonetheless. I read quite well, the proposal was that you not come around, period. Your own blaming, finger pointing and name calling has no place on these forums. You decline show even a modicum of respect for others, which in turn, decreases any thing you might have to offer.

JL A (281)
Monday June 10, 2013, 4:30 pm
Code of Conduct:

Respect and courtesy - All Care2 Members are entitled to express their views and beliefs in a safe environment without feeling attacked. Members may not infringe on the rights of any other person to express themselves in a safe environment. This policy includes:
Any harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, hateful, or otherwise objectionable posts.
Any posts which are invasive of another's privacy.
Name calling or otherwise attacking the person posting rather than the content of the post. Disagreement is encouraged, but you should only comment on the argument or position taken, never against the person posting their opinion or belief.
Any racial or ethnic slurs or insults relating to the mental, physical or intellectual qualities of any member.

Source: Care2

Alleging inability to read or that others have comprehension issues seems a clearcut violation

Cher C (1429)
Monday June 10, 2013, 4:53 pm

Green stars to both of you my friends.

Thnx for everything you both do here on care2!!!


Angelika R (143)
Monday June 10, 2013, 5:35 pm
I thought this post was about inaccurate amounts of money to be spent on immigration reform bill ? Sadly some here always try to interfere and go off-topic, being polemic.

Kit B (276)
Monday June 10, 2013, 5:36 pm

Unfortunately, discussions of immigration rarely rest on the merits of a proposed bill. These issues bore in deep for those who have racial issues just below the surface. If you are not 100% Native American, some one in your family was once an immigrant, had to be allowed into the United States, rarely welcomed. Though we have no problem taxing those who are so casually labeled with the disparaging comment, "illegal".

JL A (281)
Monday June 10, 2013, 5:47 pm
Excellent points Nyack and Angelika! Green stars sent to those posting on-topic comments, but unfortunately I can't for some like Kit and Robert where I get messages like: You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Angelika R (143)
Monday June 10, 2013, 5:56 pm
Besides, I also thought it had been agreed upon already to NOT use this false term , the proper language is undocumented. Just a reminder...

JL A (281)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 8:27 am
You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last day.
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