Senate immigration bill leaves hidden $400 billion cost for taxpayers

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, predicts that the Senate’s immigration bill will allow 7.5 million illegal immigrants into the country by 2020 and cost taxpayers $400 billion over 20 years.

Rector offered his forecast during a Wednesday Heritage briefing in Washington, D.C. He critiqued two new reports by the Congressional Budget Office on the pending Senate immigration bill.

The CBO reports were lauded by supporters of the bill, which is now being debated in the Senate. The supporters highlighted CBO predictions that younger immigrants would pay $900 billion more in taxes than they get in benefits over 20 years, and that high-skilled immigrants would increase overall productivity.

However, Rector spotlighted the CBO’s page 14 prediction that the bill’s much-touted border security, work verification and a visitor tracking measures would only stop one-quarter of future illegal immigrants. “CBO estimates that, under the bill, the net annual flow of unauthorized residents would decrease by about 25 percent relative to what would occur under current law,” said the cost estimate.

The bill’s one-in-four reduction would leave the United States with 4.8 million new illegal immigrants by 2023, and 10 million illegal immigrants by 2033, the report suggested.

“The net cost of those illegals alone would be $400 billion over that period,” Rector said.

Rector is the chief author of a May study that predicted the bill’s proposed amnesty for 11.5 million illegal immigrants would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion over 50 years. Rector and Heritage’s leadership oppose the new bill.

The CBO declined to incorporate the cost of future illegal immigration, even though it said the new bill will encourage some illegal immigration.

“Aspects of the bill would probably increase the number of unauthorized residents — in particular, people overstaying their visas issued under the new programs for temporary workers,” said the CBO report.

The CBO’s one-in-four prediction could prove to be a political problem for the bill’s advocates, who say the legislation will satisfy the public’s desire for the exclusion of illegal immigrants.

A Gallup poll released June 19, for example, reported that 83 percent of 1,015 adults wants government action to “tighten U.S. border security.” Only 15 percent of respondents oppose increased border security.

Rector’s $400 billion cost-estimate is based on national data, including data that shows each household receives roughly $32,000 in federal aid and support each year. Most illegal immigrants are unskilled and do not pay enough taxes to cover that $32,000 annual cost, he said.

Philip Wolgin, a senior policy analyst on the the Center for American Progress, used Twitter to decry Rector’s $400 billion estimate.

“CBO finds BIG [fiscal] benefits from legalization,” Wolgin said. “The more [immigrants] the better,” he added.

The cost may be much higher than $400 billion, Rector said, because the CBO also predicted that only 8 million of the current 11.5 million illegals who are now in the country would be legalized, and that many would not stay in the country.

The CBO didn’t explain why only half of the current illegals would remain, said Rector. Apparently, he said sardonically, “a lot of them get amnesty and go home, according to the CBO.”

If the missing illegals remain in the United States, they will continue to get some level of federal support, partly because few of them are skilled workers.

The CBO did not calculate the cost of the extra 7.5 million illegals expected by 2033, nor did it subtract their costs its prediction of a $900 billion short-term gain for the federal government.

That $900 billion calculation of new taxes and new spending counts near-term Social Security taxes but excludes long-term Social Security payments that would be given to the new immigrants when they age.

The CBO’s $900 billion estimate also excludes spending by state and local governments, such as medical and education programs.

The pending bill would double the current inflow of guest workers, and create a population of roughly 2.5 million university-trained temporary guest workers that would be employed in a wide variety of business jobs.

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