Critics slam conservative study on cost of immigration reform

Washington, May 7 (IANS) As lawmakers mull immigration reform to deal with the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants, including some 260,000 Indians, a conservative think tank claimed the bipartisan plan would cost a whopping $6.3 trillion.

But critics, both conservative and liberals, alike cast doubts on the Heritage Foundation study with the Washington Post suggesting that it “distorts the immigration debate” and top fiscal conservatives slamming it as rehash of a flawed 2007 study.

The conservative group said government benefits to newly legalised immigrants over the course of their lives would cost more than $9 trillion, while these immigrants would pay only $3 trillion in taxes.

“We need an immigration process that attracts workers that our economy needs and encourages patriotic assimilation to unite new immigrants with America’s vibrant civil society,” Heritage Foundation President Jim De Mint, a former senator, said Monday.

“But let’s be clear. Amnesty for those who are here unlawfully is not necessarily to capture those benefits,” he was quoted as saying by Politico, an influential Washington newspaper focusing on politics.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the president of the America Action Forum told MSNBC the study does not take into account the economic impact and upward mobility of undocumented immigrants.

Josh Culling of Americans for Tax Reform agreed. A Cato Institute study cited by the Washington Post found that immigration reform would add $1.5 trillion in growth over ten years while forcing out 11 million immigrants would lower GDP by $2.6 trillion over that period.

The Washington Post Editorial Board suggested the Heritage paper, “chock-full of assumptions that most economists dispute, is a blatant attempt to twist the immigration debate.”

“By ignoring the effects of legalisation on the overall economy, Heritage failed to take into account the effects on federal revenue as workers emerge from the shadows to start businesses, travel without fear of arrest and deportation, earn higher wages and contribute to job creation,” it said.

The bipartisan plan of the so-called “Gang of 8” senators, would create a minimum 13-year path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally before 2012-paired with approximately $2,000 in fines and hundreds more in fees.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a key member of the bipartisan coalition, has admitted he doesn’t think there will be enough votes in the Republican -controlled House to get the legislation passed, according to Politico

President Barack Obama has praised the Senate bill, saying although it’s stricter than what he would have proposed “it meets the basic criteria that I laid out from the start.”

That criteria includes creating a pathway to citizenship, beefing up border security and cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers.

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