A fight has erupted over the costs of granting amnesty to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in America, with the White House claiming the cash benefits to the Treasury are huge and will slash the deficit, and critics showing it will cost Americans more and increase the deficit.
The White House late Thursday dispatched an email to President Obama's campaign supporters that provided a video claiming that immigration reform will result in a 5.4 percent growth in GDP as "highly skilled" workers and "entrepreneurs" add to the country's economic base. No mention was made of low-skilled workers, the bulk of illegal immigrants in the country.
"Here's one of the best things about immigration reform: It's going to make our economy a lot stronger," said the White House. "Not enough people are talking about the economic benefits of immigration reform, but it's exactly the conversation that will help us win the national debate on this issue."
Critics are pushing back hard, led by the Heritage Foundation. Among the key points: reform supporters suggest that immigrants will suddenly be paying taxes when they become legal, but that's already happening.
Heritage is highlighting a chart that details the taxes paid and government services received by all Americans, including illegal immigrants. It shows that after amnesty, immigrants will cost governments $12,433 in benefits over the taxes they pay per year. Over a lifetime of an adult illegal granted amnesty, the difference between benefits received and taxes paid would be a cost to taxpayers of $592,000.
Buried in a report from Robert Rector, the conservative foundation's authority on poverty, welfare programs and immigration, the chart details taxes paid and benefits received by households headed by an illegal immigrant and how that will change after amnesty is granted.
The bottom line: Households of those granted amnesty will pay $15,071 in taxes and receive benefits of $27,504, a difference of $12,433 covered by taxpayers.
For comparison, non-immigrant families receive federal, state and local benefits such as education, welfare, public safety and health care worth about $310 more than they pay in taxes, said Heritage. And legal immigrant households get about $4,344 more than they pay in taxes.
But Heritage said legalization would cut the difference between the benefits received and taxes paid by illegal immigrants now by $1,954. Heritage said that the average illegal immigrant household currently pays taxes of $10,334 and receives benefits of $24,721.
However, after the "interim period" ends, the newly legalized families would be eligible for more government benefits, raising the cost to taxpayers. Said the Heritage report: "At the end of the interim period, unlawful immigrants would become eligible for means-tested welfare and medical subsidies under Obamacare. Average benefits would rise to $43,900 per household; tax payments would remain around $16,000; the average fiscal deficit (benefits minus taxes) would be about $28,000 per household."
Rector's report also looked at the lifetime cost of amnesty. "Put another way, if amnesty were enacted, the average adult unlawful immigrant would subsequently receive $898,000 in government benefits over the course of a lifetime and pay $306,000 in taxes over the same period. The average lifetime fiscal deficit (benefit received minus taxes paid) would be around $592,000 for each adult amnesty recipient."
Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.