Republicans working on a bipartisan immigration bill are touting a new study by a conservative economist to prove that legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants will boost the economy and lower the deficit.
The report, which was authored by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum think tank and a prominent Republican economic adviser, argues that increased immigration would amount to a net gain to the economy, mostly by bringing in more young workers to maintain population growth and support retirees with their taxes.“A benchmark immigration reform would raise the pace of economic growth by nearly a percentage point over the near term, raise GDP per capita by over $1,500 and reduce the cumulative federal deficit by over $2.5 trillion,” Holtz-Eakin wrote.
The study comes amid complaints from Republican critics of immigration reform that bringing in more immigrant workers and normalizing the current population will end up draining social services and blowing up the deficit. Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), the new president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, pledged on Tuesday to thoroughly investigate the “amnesty” bill’s price tag.
“Certainly the people in the room, the big labor, the big businesses, who happen to like this bill, they see an economic benefit, but we have to help separate that for the American taxpayers,” DeMint said at a briefing with reporters. “I can guarantee you that Heritage will be the only organization in the country that is looking at the true cost of a blanket amnesty proposal.”
In part to allay these concerns, senators working on immigration reform have said that undocumented immigrants legalized under their legislation would not be able to access federal health benefits until they receive a green card, which would likely take more than a decade under their plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who highlighted the AAF study on Twitter Tuesday, has suggested barring newly authorized immigrants from participating in the Affordable Care Act’s subsidized insurance exchanges for 15 years, according to a report by Yahoo’s Chris Moody. The group also plans on finding offsets for the cost of implementing new border security measures.
“We do not intend to have the proposals that we are enacting be additional costs to the taxpayers of America,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), part of the “Gang of 8” crafting a bill, told TPM.
Eakin’s study isn’t the first to suggest population trends sparked by reform could reduce the deficit. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office determined a 2007 immigration bill would have increased spending on social services by $22.7 billion over 10 years but boosted revenues by $48.3 billion for the same period.