NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 12, 2006

Congress is in the midst of the most dramatic overhaul of our nation's immigration laws in 80 years, but how might this affect government costs, asks Robert Rector, senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation?

In the case of the Hagel-Martinez immigration bill -- which was recently passed by the Senate -- it would raise government spending substantially, says Rector:

  • Rector estimates that the bill -- which would put about 10 million illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship -- will yield an additional net cost to the federal government of $16 billion per year.
  • Once an illegal immigrant becomes a citizen, he has the right to bring his parents to live in the United States, who can then become citizens; the long-term cost of government benefits for the parents could be $50 billion per year or more.
  • If the bill is enacted, it would be the largest expansion of the welfare state in 35 years, and its guest-worker-for-life program would add even further costs.

However, federal and state governments already operate a massive system of income redistribution that benefits immigrants, says Rector:

  • In 2004, some $538 billion from the upper-middle class was transferred to the lower-income half of the population, which usually includes immigrants who are poorly educated and have a high probability of unwed births.
  • Immigrant households are also 50 percent more likely to receive, and use, welfare longer than native-born households.

Immigrants should be net contributors to the government and society, not a fiscal burden, says Rector; this immigration bill is on a course to make the finance books of government worse, not better.

Source: Robert Rector, "Illegal Alien Amnesty Bill Bloats Welfare," Human Events Online (National Conservative Weekly), June 5, 2006.

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