WASHINGTON — Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, scholar Robert Rector and vice president of domestic and economic policy Derrick Morgan went on offense at a Monday press conference about the think tank’s recently released report on the cost of legalizing the illegal immigrant population.
“It is clear a number of people in Washington who might benefit from an amnesty, as well as a number of people in Congress, don’t want to consider the cost,” DeMint said, in response to a question about Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist’s criticism of the report prior to its release.
“No sensible, thinking person could read this study and conclude that over 50 years that it could possibly have a positive economic impact,” DeMint added.
Norquist and others have pointed to a 2006 Heritage study on the economic benefits of immigration as part of their criticism of the Heritage study. Morgan said that “when the facts change, our analysis will change.”
“That was a much different time. It was before the experience that we had with the stimulus bill, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank for example, where you had catch-all comprehensive bills, so we are much more skeptical of those types of legislation now. And it was a much different economy as well, which the authors noted throughout that report.”
Rector was forceful in his answers to critics.
“I have a response to Grover Norquist,” Rector added. “Which is that if he looks in this report, he will say that I have concluded that the average household — all together in the US, immigrants, nonimmigrant, legal, illegal — all together, that those households, where the head does not have a high school degree, receive $46,000 a year in government benefits and services, using the same methodology that is here in the National Academy of Sciences, [and] that they pay $11,000 in taxes.”
Rector continued that if Norquist believed that the net $35,000 deficit for all households headed by somebody without a high school degree is false, then he has misunderstood the welfare state entirely for the last 30 years.
“I would like to know whether Grover Norquist feels that that number for nonimmigrants of all households is false,” he continued. “Because if it is false I do not know what I’m doing, then I have misstudied the welfare state in the United States for the last 30 years. Okay. But that number is not false. That is the deficit for a household that does not have a high school graduate in it.”
Rector then issued a challenge.
“It is incumbent upon those people that do not like this study to try to prove why that sort of number for nonimmigrants does not apply to immigrant households,” Rector said. “I think when you look at the study, you’ll find it actually does. That the legal immigrants look exactly the same, they have these costs.”
“It is not a fault of theirs, but they are in a system that transfers trillions of dollars from the upper middle class down every year, and they receive the benefits,” he added.
Responding to criticism that the analysis does not consider the economic benefits of immigration reform, along the lines of a recent analysis of economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Rector pointed to the National Academy of Sciences, which has said the net economic benefits are small, and the analysis of Harvard professor George Borjas.
“I think that is largely an effort to distract attention from the issue. What is really being said here is maybe amnesty costs $6 trillion but there are these other affects that might possibly upset that. There is no study in fact which shows that kind of effect,” Rector said.
“In reference to the Holtz-Eakin study,” he continued, “that is not a study. It’s essentially a press release about a study that might be released at some point in the future.”
“We have at best two paragraphs of information from him. One of the assumptions he makes is that all immigration has a positive effect of reducing the deficit, irrespective of the education level of the immigration. I know for a fact that is not only not true, it is preposterous. And so you would have to have a much more detailed analytic study to show that.”
The Heritage Foundation report revealed that the net cost of amnesty to the taxpayer would be $6.3 trillion — wherein formerly unlawful immigrants would pay $3.1 trillion in taxes but take in $9.4 trillion over the course of their lifetime, largely due to their low level of education.
“What the amnesty proponents are saying is that they can take someone from Mexico and Guatemala with a 10th grade education plunk them into that [highly generous welfare redistribution] system and somehow, miraculously that individual is going to pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits,” Rector said. “That is not only untrue it is just profoundly implausible.”