WASHINGTON — Heritage Foundation scholar Robert Rector said Monday that his $6.3 trillion estimate of the cost of legalizing the illegal immigrations in America today is likely an underestimate.
“I believe that this cost estimate of $6.3 trillion is in fact a very, very low estimate. It assumes that there are only 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the United States, I believe the actual number is considerably higher than that,” Rector, the lead author of the Heritage report on the cost of mass legalization, said during a press conference.
“It also assumes there will be no cheating, in terms of people applying for and receiving amnesty, who do not in fact deserve it,” he added. “In the 1986 amnesty, probably 25 percent of the people who received amnesty were in fact not eligible.”
Rector added that the report also has virtually no “constant dollar growth” in welfare and medical benefits for the next 50 years, and that is “almost certainly an underestimate.”
Another factor that could lead to under estimates, Rector noted, was the fact that he did not calculate the additional cost of bringing the spouses and minor children of people granted legal status.
“So the actual costs are probably much higher than the $6.3 trillion,” he said.
By comparison, if illegal immigrants were to remain in their status, the net current law cost would be around $1 trillion, Rector said.
“[Current law] is an enormously much better deal for the taxpayer. The amnesty bills takes a really bad, broken system and make it much more expensive and much worse from the taxpayer’s perspective,” Rector explained.
Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint echoed Rector’s assertion that the calculations represent an underestimate of the total net cost.
“That doesn’t include what we believe will happen, as it did before: an amnesty is likely to create incentives fro more unlawful immigration with the anticipation of another amnesty, just like in 1986. I think in every point Robert [Rector] has reasonably underestimated the cost of an amnesty,” DeMint added.
On what should be done about the immigration system, DeMint advocated a piecemeal approach.
“It’s a system that needs to be reformed and there are a lot of benefits that could come from reform,” Demint said going on to add that the advocates for immigration reform in its current form “need to recognize that the best way to make this work, and earn the trust of the American people, and not divide everyone, is to begin with a piece by piece approach, fixing those parts of our immigration system that would make it work better. And then we could reasonably deal with the people who are here.”
Rector added that if America grants the illegals legal status, it will send a message to the world that will act as a “magnet” for illegal immigration. He highlighted the failed promises of the 1986 amnesty law.
“That law has never been enforced for a single day since 1986, and I think before we even begin to talk about granting another amnesty, which we promised would never occur then we ought to enforce the law that was passed in 1986.”