DeMint pans immigration reform bill as expensive amnesty

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Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator turned president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, dismissed the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill Wednesday as an unfair amnesty at a significant cost to American taxpayers.

In a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday evening, DeMint and Heritage Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy Derrick Morgan asserted that those drafting the immigration forgot to keep those who followed the law and “the forgotten and hard-working American taxpayer” in mind when drafting the legislation “behind closed doors.”

Decrying a costly welfare system with an annual cost reaching nearly $1 trillion, DeMint and Morgan wrote that lawmakers must consider the cost to the American taxpayer when legalized illegals qualify for federal benefits.

“The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector has pioneered research into the cost to the federal government over time of granting amnesty,” the pair wrote. “Rector was the driving force behind welfare reform in the 1990s. Five years ago, Rector found that amnesty would likely cost taxpayers some $2.5 trillion. Over the last six months he has been putting the finishing touches on an updated study that calculates an even higher price tag.”

Groups in favor of the immigration proposal have already attacked Rector’s upcoming report — by citing his earlier 2007 report, which this is an update to — as potentially flawed by using analytical tools such as static scoring, rather than dynamic scoring.

While the legislation prohibits those legalized and on their probationary period from receiving benefits, DeMint and Morgan that the promise is meaningless.

“Some may say we can solve this fiscal problem by granting amnesty without any government benefits,” the pair wrote. “We all know that will never happen. As soon as any of the nearly 11 million unauthorized immigrants are given legal status, the political fight will turn to speeding their transition to citizenship and promises of a full array of federal benefits.”

“Delaying eligibility for federal benefits to newly legalized immigrants merely puts off the day of reckoning,” they continued. “The truly enormous costs come when unauthorized immigrants start collecting retirement benefits. Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other entitlement programs already impose huge, unfunded liabilities on taxpayers; adding more recipients only makes the fiscal hole we find ourselves in much deeper.”

They concluded that attempts at immigration reform should be geared toward specific problems, rather than a comprehensive overhaul “guided by special interests.”

“In this immigration debate, we should encourage lawful immigration and discourage unlawful immigration,” DeMint and Morgan wrote. “A critically important factor will be calculating the cost of amnesty to taxpayers. Any reform legislation should first do no harm to our already dire fiscal outlook.”

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