Former Bush economic adviser disputes Heritage immigration report

Holtz-Eakin, now president of the American Action Forum (AAF), said he was “mystified” by the foundation’s report, which hangs a $6.3 trillion price tag on the bipartisan immigration bill introduced last month in the Senate.

“Heritage is looking very narrowly at one part of the bill,” said Holtz-Eakin, who served as an economic adviser to President George W. Bush in the early 2000s before heading up the nonpartisan CBO.

Holtz-Eakin said the foundation’s report neglects to consider the economic implications of major portions of the bill, including a dramatically expanded electronic worker verification system, an overhaul of worker visa programs and tightened border security.

Instead, he said, the foundation’s report looks only at the costs of providing provisional legal status to those in the country illegally and assumes only costs and no benefits.

Holtz-Eakin said there has been a distinct shift in the foundation’s view of immigration reform. He pointed to what he described as altogether different reports issued by the foundation in 1984 and 2006.

“These studies directed conservatives to evaluate the merits of immigration and other policy reforms by their impact on the growth, vibrancy, and health of the private sector,” Holtz-Eakin wrote in an article published Monday.  “Imagine the confusion among thoughtful conservatives, then, when in 2007, and repackaged and rereleased today as version 2.0, a Heritage study failed to consider the implications of reform and instead looked solely at the cost of low-skilled immigrants and those effects on the government’s profitability!”

The AAF has issued its own study of the 844-page bill, finding it would lead to a rise in gross domestic product and lead to a $2.7 trillion reduction in the federal deficit.