WASHINGTON -- A conservative think tank said Monday that immigration reform would be costly to taxpayers -- the latest in a growing, but contradictory, body of research on the costs and benefits of providing a path to citizenship for those living in this country without legal status.
The Heritage Foundation study swiftly became ammunition for Republicans who are arguing against the sweeping immigration reform measure proposed by a bipartisan group of senators.
Heritage said the immigrants would become a drain on taxpayers because they would receive $6.3 trillion more in government benefits over their lifetimes than they would pay in taxes. Many American citizens, including those born in the United States, already pose a similar drain on the government, the authors said, because of low income levels. They argued against adding immigrants to the mix.
The study provides a sharp contrast to a recent report from another GOP-aligned economist, Doug Holtz-Eakin of American Action Forum, who wrote in April that overhauling the immigration laws could boost the economy. He found the country’s gross domestic output could grow by nearly 1 percentage point a year, reducing the federal deficit more than $2.5 trillion over the decade.
The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan score-keeper in Washington, is preparing its own analysis of the bill.
Proposed by a bipartisan group of senators, the legislation would overhaul the nation’s immigration laws with enhanced border security, new guest worker programs and a 13-year path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally or overstayed visas.
Heritage plays an influential role on Capitol Hill. Its report was widely anticipated, and circulated, on Monday.
“These costs would have to be borne by already overburdened U.S. taxpayers,” wrote Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at Heritage, whose past work on the issue influenced the failure of a 2007 effort to change the immigration laws. He coauthored the piece with Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at Heritage.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of the senators working on the latest bill, said the latest Heritage effort would not hold up against the other studies.
“It’s not going to work this time,” he said.
Michael A. Memoli in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.