The Corner

Heritage for America

The Heritage Foundation has weighed in twice this week on the immigration issue, to good effect:

1. Ed Meese and Matt Spalding have released an overview of the principles that must underlie any immigration legislation, common-sense criteria that unfortunately would be rejected out of hand by the supporters of “comprehensive immigration reform.” They include: full implementation of the REAL ID Act driver’s-license standards and the US-VISIT check-in/check-out border-screening program, no deductibility of wages paid to illegals, enhanced state and local cooperation with immigration authorities, no automatic citizenship for children of illegals, no importation of poverty or fiscal costs for taxpayers, and financial assistance for illegals volunteering to deport themselves. Though I think it’s simply unarguable that all temporary worker programs fail, at least Meese and Spalding lay out criteria to try to keep it honest — it would have to be truly temporary, workers go home when term of work is done, no family members, etc. Likewise, though I remain dubious about “triggers” that would have to be met before a worker program starts, at least the triggers spelled out by Heritage are substantive ones, and would require the approval of Congress, rather than just an assertion by the executive. And on amnesty, there’s no weaseling from Heritage: “The granting of legal status is still an amnesty even if it is conditional and not automatic or does not lead to citizenship.”

2. Robert Rector released his new fiscal cost estimates for low-skilled immigrants at yesterday’s House Small Business Committee hearing. The committee doesn’t seem to post testimony at its site, and the report isn’t up at Heritage’s site yet either.

This is a refinement of an April report on the fiscal costs of all low-skilled workers (immigrant and native-born), which is here (NR’s Byron York wrote about it here). That study found that the average household headed by a person without a high school education costs taxpayers a net $22,449 each year. Rector’s new report finds the number is somewhat lower for immigrants: $19,588 a year ($10,573 in taxes paid but $30,160 in government expenditures). This is not actually good news, though, because the lower cost comes from the fact that immigrants are somewhat younger, and the age issue is central to any assessment of the costs of amnesty. Because the cost to taxpayers skyrockets for older households, Rector concludes that “Based on my current research, I estimate that if all the current adult illegal immigrants in the U.S. were granted amnesty the net retirement costs to government (benefits minus taxes) could be over $2.5 trillion.” Hey, the Social Security system can afford that, right?

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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