Heritage's Immigration Reform Price Tag: $6.3 Trillion

Heritage's Immigration Reform Price Tag: $6.3 Trillion

Today, in a widely anticipated study, the Heritage Foundation staked out a bold claim about immigration reform: the lifetime budgetary costs of a Gang of Eight-style measure would total $6.3 trillion:

The $6.3 trillion figure is the bottom line of a complicated analysis. The study's authors, Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, summed up all of the government expenditures -- not just federal, but state and local as well -- that would accrue to immigrants once they received legal status. Andrew Stiles has written a helpful preview of the study here. One key argument Rector and a Richwine advance is that the long-term costs of enacting a path to citizenship for immigrants currently living in the U.S. without authorization would be far higher than could be captured in a 10-year budget window, given the costs of maintaining retirement support for regularized immigrants. Although net fiscal support for such immigrants would decrease in the interim period before they gained citizenship, it would increase in the long run as they became eligible for Medicare and Social Security.

With the Senate set to begin marking up the Gang of Eight's immigration reform legislation this week, Heritage's analysis is timely. The $6.3 trillion figure will certainly prove handy for those hoping to derail the bill's progress.

Timely though it may be, the study's critics got a jump on Heritage with pre-buttals. The Cato Institute's Alex Nowrasteh published an 11-point criticism of what he thought Rector and Richwine were planning. In particular, Nowrasteh thought that any examination of fiscal costs should include "dynamic scoring" that took into account the faster economic growth that immigration reform might spur. Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the right-leaning American Action Forum also released a brief analysis this month that employed dynamic scoring and concluded that reform could reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion, by improving the country's demographics and fostering entrepreneurship.

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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