Rep. Becerra: ‘Very faulty’ Heritage report won't sink immigration reform

A new conservative report estimating immigration reform will cost taxpayers trillions of dollars is full of holes and won’t sink the reform push this year, Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraPoll: Former Sanders staffer gains steam in race to replace Xavier Becerra Mortgages rise out of reach for many Latinos House Hispanic Dems vie for more committee assignments MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing group headed by former-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), warned this week that the Senate's bipartisan proposal granting legal status to millions of immigrants in the country illegally would hike long-term deficit spending by $6.3 trillion.

But Becerra, a member of a bipartisan group crafting similar reforms in the House, said the analysis “is based on very faulty information and will not drive this debate because it is so outlandish.”

“My sense is you're seeing the percolation that occurs when an issue really does have an opportunity to become law,” Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “And what I hope is that Republicans will continue on this track of saying, ‘It's better to fix a broken immigration system, than to just give up.’”

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), vice-chairman of the caucus, piled on, arguing that the Heritage report is simply a desperate effort by opponents of immigration reform to kill any momentum to pass a bill this year.

“It's really more about taking as much gunk as you can, throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticks,” Crowley said.

Released Monday, the Heritage report estimated that the Senate Gang of Eight's proposal granting legal status to the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally would cost the government an additional $9.4 trillion in federal benefits while resulting in only $3.1 trillion in new tax revenue.

The report has fueled the resistance from conservatives opposed to the legalization effort – which they consider "amnesty" – while amplifying the Republican divisions over the fate of the Senate bill.

In one camp are conservatives like DeMint and Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsFive worries for tech under Trump The new Washington elite schmoozes over lunch Justice requires higher standard than Sessions MORE (R-Ala.), who argue that the country simply can't afford the Senate proposal.

“At a time when our nation’s major entitlements are already nearing bankruptcy, we cannot afford to add another $6.3 trillion in long-term net costs to already over-burdened state, local, and federal governments,” Sessions said Monday in a statement.

In the other camp are Republicans like Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeGOP eyes new push to break up California court Live coverage of Trump's inauguration Under Trump, the disruptors return to Washington (that's a good thing) MORE (Ariz.) and Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanMeet Trump's secret weapon on infrastructure Here comes Trump-o-nomics GOP waiting to hear from Trump on ObamaCare MORE (Wis.), who say the Heritage analysis ignores a number of fiscal benefits associated with legalizing immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

“The Congressional Budget Office has found that fixing our broken immigration system could help our economy grow,” Ryan said Monday in a statement. “A proper accounting of immigration reform should take into account these dynamic effects.”

The disagreement is just the latest reminder why Congress has failed for a generation to pass sweeping immigration reform.

Becerra said Tuesday that, while the Republican split on immigration is real, there remains enough political interest among GOP leaders to pass a comprehensive reform bill this year.

“To some degree, I think the Republicans are tying themselves up in knots, because I'm not sure they have yet settled on where they want to go,” he said. “I do believe, though, that there is a growing and critical mass of Republicans in the House and the Senate who are joining Republicans throughout the country in saying, 'We just have to fix this broken immigration system.’

“To do nothing would, essentially, be exactly what all these [critics] say they didn't want,” he added, “which is some form of amnesty for a system that allows us not to understand who's in our country.”