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Heritage Foundation's Bogus Immigration Costs

J. Mijin Cha

The Heritage Foundation has a new report out looking at the cost of immigration reform. The report puts the cost of immigration reform at a whopping $6.3 trillion. I won’t go into all the reasons they list but let’s say it seems they believe that as soon as undocumented workers become citizens, they will immediately claim means-tested benefits. Not only is this offensive,  it’s flat out wrong. And, you don’t have to take my word for it—in 2006, Heritage released a report touting the economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform stating, “An honest assessment acknowledges that illegal immigrants bring real benefits to the supply side of the American economy, which is why the business community is opposed to a simple crackdown.”

Beyond Heritage’s own words, several conservative groups have also touted the economic benefits of immigration reform. The Manhattan Institute released a brief in February that stated,

Immigrants increase economic efficiency by reducing labor shortages in low- and high-skilled markets because their educational backgrounds fill holes in the native-born labor market. However, the share of immigrants in the U.S. workforce has declined since its 1991 peak. Increased immigration would expand the American work-force, and encourage more business start-ups. Businesses ranging from Apple Corporation to apple growers would be able to find the workers they need in America.

The American Action Forum released a study in April that said immigration reform would reduce the deficit by $2.7 trillion. Cato has an 11-point takedown of why the Heritage study is flawed, including some significant flaws in the way the Heritage numbers were calculated.

In reality, undocumented workers help make our economy work. Providing a pathway to citizenship would help bring them out of the shadows and openly into the workforce. Studies have shown that within five years of gaining legal status, previously undocumented workers experienced a 15.1 percent increase in their average inflation-adjusted wages. That increase means more revenues for state and federal government and a stronger economy with more people with increased purchasing power.

The Heritage study is an ugly example of trying to demonize a population that has been underpaid and exploited for our own economic means. Comprehensive, just immigration reform will be a big boost to our economy. It’s the right thing for our economy and for our society.