Amnesty for Illegal Aliens Beats ‘Failed’ Enforcement Policy, Says Liberal Group

April 14, 2009 - 5:46 PM
Amnesty would help the struggling U.S. economy, the report claims -- an assertion that a Heritage Foundation scholar scorns.  

Approximately 200 convicted illegal immigrants handcuffed together arrive at their new part of the jail as they are moved into a separate area of Tent City, by orders of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for incarceration until their sentences are served and they are deported to their home countries Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(CNSNews.com) – A report issued by the liberal Immigration Policy Center calls for a wide-ranging “pathway to citizenship” for the 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. The report says such an amnesty program would help the struggling U.S. economy and would be better than "failed" efforts at enforcement.
 
“Comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization for undocumented workers would pay for itself,” the report says, “in contrast to the failed and costly enforcement-only policies that have been pursued thus far.”
 
The report says that amnesty programs would more than pay for themselves, citing 2006 and 2007 congressional proposals, by raising more in tax revenue than they cost in increased bureaucracy. Both bills failed due to overwhelming opposition from conservatives over the plans’ amnesty programs.
 
The report claims that illegals would earn more wages as a result of amnesty and therefore increase their spending, adding to economic growth. They would also have greater incentive to improve their education and English proficiency, giving them added opportunity to earn more money.
 
The report also says that policies focusing strictly on enforcement will only push illegal immigrants further into what it calls the underground economy – thereby decreasing tax revenue.

Citing Congressional Budget Office data, the report says the E-Verify program – designed to electronically check immigration status – would cost the government $17.3 billion in payroll tax revenue as workers seek employment off the books.
 
The report also condemned enforcement actions taken to date as having failed, citing the increase in the budgets of the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security as evidence, claiming that despite the increased spending, illegal immigration has continued to rise.
 
“Enforcement-only policies are costly and ineffective,” the report states. “At the same time that spending on immigration enforcement has skyrocketed, the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has roughly tripled.”
 
However, the report does not include the cost to taxpayers of any part of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants being added to the nation’s social welfare programs -- a figure the conservative Heritage Foundation found could be at least $2.6 trillion.
 
According to Heritage scholar Robert Rector, the cost of amnesty would far outweigh the modest benefits the country would see from 12 million new, low-skilled workers.
 
“If any reader believes that people who are high school dropouts pay more in taxes than they receive in government benefits, then they believe amnesty is good for the U.S. taxpayer,” Rector told CNSNews.com.
 
“(About) 50- to 60-percent of the illegals are, in fact, high school dropouts and another 30- to 40-percent have a foreign high school degree, which is very similar.
 
“The reality is that that type of family – on average – receives about $20,000 a year more in benefits than they pay in taxes,” he explained.
 
Rector said that any attempt to argue amnesty was a benefit to American citizens was “ludicrous,” saying it was simply counter-factual to think that millions of poorly educated, poorly skilled workers were going to be a net gain for America.
 
“What we have here is basically an attempt by the Left to argue that up is down ans left is right. That this population, which is overwhelmingly very poorly educated, unlike every other poorly educated group in the United States, is somehow going to be a net financial contributor.
 
“It’s ludicrous,” he added.
 
Rector argued that since illegal immigrants essentially consume what they produce, there would be no net benefit to the economy from granting them amnesty.
 
“They make the pie bigger – the total GDP (Gross Domestic Product) bigger – but they consume the slice of the pie they create. No American citizen is better off as a result of that.”
 
Rector also rejected the idea that enforcement had failed, saying it hadn’t even been tried; citing the E-Verify system as one example where an attempt at enforcement had never been implemented.
 
“If you don’t enforce the law, it has no effect. Surprise, surprise.”
 
Rector said that measures like the E-Verify system haven’t failed because they’ve never been used, a fact he attributed to pro-amnesty groups opposition to enforcement.
 
“There’s no enforcement at all, we don’t use the (current enforcement) system. If you were to require the use of the system, they would scream bloody murder, not because it doesn’t work but because they know it works too well.”
 
He said amnesty had been tried once before and that the current effort was simply more of the same.
 
“Twenty years ago we granted an amnesty, for one time. In exchange for that amnesty, in 1986, we said ‘from here on in it will be unlawful to hire illegal aliens.’ From the moment that was passed, the interest groups got in there and ensured that that law has never been enforced.”