FORMER SENATOR Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), now leader of the Heritage Foundation, knows that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is likely to judge that immigration reform — including eventual citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants — will be a shot in the arm for the U.S. economy. After all, the CBO has done so with previous such legislation. That explains why Mr. DeMint, a bitter opponent of legalization, has launched a preemptive attack on the CBO — “puppets of the Congress,” he called the office the other day — and why Heritage has issued a study slamming amnesty for unauthorized immigrants as a drain on taxpayers.
The Heritage paper, chock-full of assumptions that most economists dispute, is a blatant attempt to twist the immigration debate. It concludes that newly legalized immigrants would cost $6.3 trillion more in benefits over their lifetime than they would pay in taxes. (That’s $5.3 trillion more than they would cost without legalization, the think tank said.) The study updates a similar one by Heritage in 2007, which pegged the fiscal cost of amnesty at that time at a mere $2.6 trillion.