Pro-Amnesty Group Says 'Pathway to Citizenship' Better than ‘Failed’ Enforcement

By Matt Cover | April 15, 2009 | 8:08 PM EDT

U.S. Border Patrol (Photo courtesy Department of Homeland Security.)

( – A report issued by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), a liberal group, calls for a wide-ranging pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. The report says such an amnesty program would help the struggling U.S. economy and would be better than failed efforts at enforcement.
A leading critic of across-the-board amnesty, however, said that real enforcement has not been practiced and that the costs of a sweeping amnesty far outweigh its benefits.
“Comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization for undocumented workers would pay for itself,” the IPC report says, “in contrast to the failed and costly enforcement-only policies that have been pursued thus far.” 
The report further says that any amnesty program more than pays for itself – citing congressional proposals in 2006 and 2007 -- by raising more in tax revenue than it costs in increased bureaucracy. Both bills failed due to overwhelming opposition from conservatives over the plans’ amnesty goals.
The report also states that illegals would earn higher 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, says the Immigration Policy Center.
But policies that focus strictly on enforcement will only push illegal immigrants further into what the IPC 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 have cost the government $17.3 billion in payroll tax revenue as workers sought 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,” says the Immigration Policy Center. “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 the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants being added to the nation’s social welfare programs – a figure the conservative Heritage Foundation, in its own study, found could be as high as $2.6 trillion. According to that study’s author, 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
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,” said Rector.
“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 that amnesty was a benefit to U.S. citizens was “ludicrous.” It is counter-factual to think that millions of poorly educated, poorly skilled workers are going to be a net gain for America, he said.
“What we have here is basically an attempt by the Left to argue that up is down and left is right,” said Rector. “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 said.
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,” he said.  “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.
“If you don’t enforce the law, it has no effect -- surprise, surprise,” he said.
Rector also said that measures like the E-Verify system have not failed because they also have not been used, a fact he attributed to pro-amnesty groups’ opposition to enforcement.
“There’s no enforcement at all, we don’t use the [existing enforcement] system,” he said. “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,” said Rector. “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.”