DeMint, Heritage estimate Senate immigration bill price tag at $6.3T

Legalizing an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants will cost taxpayers at least $6.3 trillion over the coming decades, according to a study released Monday by the Heritage Foundation.

The study projects illegal immigrants would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and pay only $3.1 trillion in taxes over their lifetimes if they gain lawful status under comprehensive immigration reform pending in the Senate.

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Heritage opposes the Senate immigration bill, which the group argues would provide amnesty to those who entered the country illegally. Its findings could make it tougher to move the bill through either chamber by rallying conservatives against it.

“Amnesty is unfair to those who come here lawfully and those who are waiting,” former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Heritage’s president, said during a presentation of the group’s findings. “It will cost the American taxpayer trillions of dollars over the next several decades, and it will make our immigration problems worse.”

DeMint said the comprehensive immigration reform bill crafted by the Senate’s Gang of Eight was written in a way to minimize the costs accrued over the next ten years, the window typically used by the Congressional Budget Office to assess the cost of legislation.

He compared the bill to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which CBO estimated would reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion over 10 years.

“It’s clear a number of people in Washington who might benefit from an amnesty as well as a number of people in Congress do not want to consider the cost,” DeMint said. “Clearly, by the way the legislation was written just like with ObamaCare and other legislation, they play their normal tricks of trying to push some of the expenses outside the 10-year window to get Congressional Budget Office to estimate some actual savings.”

“No matter how you slice it, amnesty will add a tremendous amount of pressure on America’s already strained public purse,” said Robert Rector, Heritage’s senior research fellow in domestic policy studies.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to mark up the 844-page immigration reform bill this week.

The potential drain on the federal government was one of the principle arguments critics used against comprehensive immigration reform legislation to derail it in 2007.

The study states the typical illegal immigrant household receives $14,000 more in government benefits than it pays in taxes. Heritage estimates that gap would jump to $29,500 per household after ten years when immigrants would become eligible for welfare and other benefits, if the pending legislation became law.

Under the bill, millions of illegal immigrants would receive provisional legal status almost immediately and permanent legal status after a period of ten years. They would be eligible for citizenship after an estimated wait of 13 and a half years.

“After amnesty, the typical unlawful immigrant will receive government benefits for 50 years, meaning his household would receive $592,000 more in government benefits during his lifetime than he would pay in taxes,” Heritage concludes.

The average illegal immigrant would draw more than $3 in Social Security and Medicare for every dollar paid in Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, the study said.

This story was posted at 11:19 a.m. and updated at 12:39 p.m.