Opinion: Editorials

Examiner Editorial: Taxpayers will pay big price for immigration reform

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Photo - WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10:  An immigration activist holds up a sign on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol during an All In for Citizenship rally April 10, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Tens of thousands of reform supporters gathered for the rally to call on Congress to act on proposals that would grant a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million of the nation's illegal immigrants.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: An immigration activist holds up a sign on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol during an All In for Citizenship rally April 10, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Tens of thousands of reform supporters gathered for the rally to call on Congress to act on proposals that would grant a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million of the nation's illegal immigrants. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Opinion,Editorial,Taxes,Immigration

If Americans learned anything from the debate over Obamacare, it is that Washington politicians are quite adept at manipulating legislation to obscure a bill's true cost. When Obamacare was passed by the House in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office famously estimated the bill would only cost $940 billion over 10 years. Then in 2012, just two years after Obamacare was signed into law by President Obama, CBO recalculated the program's costs and raised its projection to $1.76 trillion over a decade, almost double the original price tag.

To avoid a repeat of that scenario, the Heritage Foundation yesterday released its independent cost estimate of the amnesty portion of the Schumer-Rubio immigration reform bill scheduled for a vote Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Heritage's analysis, granting amnesty to the 11.5 million illegal immigrants currently thought to be in the United States would generate $3.1 trillion in higher tax revenues over the course of their lifetimes. But they would also receive $9.4 trillion government benefits and services, leaving American taxpayers on the hook for $6.3 trillion.

The core of Heritage's analysis stems from an uncomfortable fact about the modern American welfare state: Many households get more in government services and benefits than they pay in taxes. Education is the key determinant. Households led by a college graduate, for example, pay on average $54,089 a year in taxes while receiving $24,839 in benefits, providing a surplus to the government of $29,250.

But households led by a high school graduate only pay $19,344 in taxes, while getting $34,159 in benefits. Households led by someone without a high school diploma contribute just $11,469 in taxes and receive $46,582 in benefits, for a $35,113 net loss for every such household. Unfortunately, the vast majority of illegal immigrants live in households with limited education; 75 percent possess a high school degree or less, and only 10 percent are headed by college graduates. That means the vast majority of immigrants granted amnesty likely will be a net drain on taxpayers.

Heritage estimates that the amnesty portions of the Schumer-Rubio bill would cost all levels of government about $44 billion a year for the first 13 years. But then, after these immigrants were granted full access to the modern American welfare state, that number would balloon to $106 billion a year. It gets worse after that. When these amnestied immigrants later retire, their annual costs rise again to about $160 billion a year.

There is nearly unanimous agreement that the current immigration system desperately needs reform. Robert Rector, who co-authored the report with Heritage's Jason Richwine, agrees with reform advocates that the economy would benefit if more highly-skilled immigrants were allowed to come to the country faster. But, he also explained, "the amnesty bill takes a really bad broken system and makes it much more expensive and much worse from the taxpayers perspective." Rector has his critics, but Americans cannot afford simply to dismiss his numbers.

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