On Monday, the Heritage Foundation published a widely panned study arguing that comprehensive immigration reform that allows undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion, as the population will take advantage of an array of government programs, including, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, public education, and population-based services like police and parks.
But the study, which comes out under the leadership of conservative former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), is a sharp departure from a “Backgrounder” the Foundation published in 2006. Then, Heritage noted that “worker migration is a net plus economically” and warned lawmakers against succumbing to “a lopsided, ideological approach that focuses exclusively on border security while ignore migrant workers (or vice versa) is bound to fail.” Below is a comparison of the two:
|“[F]ormer unlawful immigrant households would likely begin to receive government benefits at the same rate as lawful immigrant households of the same education level. As a result, government spending and fiscal deficits would increase dramatically.”||“An honest assessment acknowledges that illegal immigrants bring real benefits to the supply side of the American economy, which is why the business community is opposed to a simple crackdown… Most immigrant families have a positive net fiscal impact on the U.S., adding $88,000 more in tax revenues than they consume in services.“|
|“Amnesty would also raise retirement costs by making unlawful immigrants eligible for Social Security and Medicare, resulting in a net fiscal deficit of around $22,700 per retired amnesty recipient per year.”||“Social Security payroll taxes paid by improperly identified (undocumented) workers have led to a $463 billion funding surplus.”|
|“Many conservatives believe that if an individual has a job and works hard, he will inevitably be a net tax contributor (paying more in taxes than he takes in benefits). In our society, this has not been true for a very long time. “||“Whether low-skilled or high-skilled, immigrants boost national output, enhance specialization, and provide a net economic benefit.”|
|“Unlawful immigration appears to depress the wages of low-skill U.S.-born and lawful immigrant workers by 10 percent, or $2,300, per year. Unlawful immigration also probably drives many of our most vulnerable U.S.-born workers out of the labor force entirely.”||Studies show that a 10 percent share increase of immigrant labor results in roughly a 1 percent reduction in native wages-a very minor effect… [C]ritics of this type of insourcing worry that jobs are being taken away from native-born Americans in favor of low-wage foreigners. Recent data suggest that these fears are overblown.”|
The author of the 2006 Heritage report disputes the 2013 analysis: “Unless they expect readers to believe all this household income (a) generates no productive work (e.g., makes product, mows lawns, nurses the sick, and starts businesses that hire other Americans) and (b) is 100% remitted abroad, consuming nothing in the U.S. macro economy, then the report is misleading.” Like the other fiscal conservatives today, he argues, “The net effect of this Special Report does real damage to the cause of dynamic analysis. For more than a decade, Heritage has called on CBO to add dynamic analysis to its tax reform studies.”