The conservative think thank went so far as to deny having published the report — which as of press time remained on their homepage.
A report published by The Heritage Foundation — co-authored by a man who previously cited immigrants as having lower IQs than American citizens — is under fire from left and right, with critics claiming it’s a dishonest, blatant attempt to overhaul efforts by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” lawmakers who recently introduced immigration reform legislation.
The conservative think tank report put the price tag of reform at $6.3 trillion, a figure that has now been debunked by leading conservatives and Republicans, putting the Heritage Fund on the defense in the wake of criticism from its base.
The report, titled “The Cost of Amnesty,” was published May 6 by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, alleging that social security, medicare, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, along with the price of education, would amount to a burden paid by legal Americans.
The argument rests on the basis that undocumented immigrants fall into a tax bracket that didn’t contribute to the overall U.S. tax base.
Aside from what critics see as flawed logic, the organization is also under fire from those who claim Richwine should never have been involved.
Richwine is a Harvard Ph.D. who wrote his dissertation, “IQ and Immigration Policy,” claiming that IQ among immigrants is lower than those of the White, “native” U.S. population. Robert Rector, the lead author, is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and expert in the field of welfare studies.
In the face of opposition from fellow conservatives, the Heritage Foundation’s Mike Gonzalez published a post on the organization’s blog section, claiming the report was not the work of the Heritage Foundation, referring to it as a “Harvard study.”
The post was deemed by the Heritage Foundation as its official statement regarding the controversy.
“Its findings do not reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation or the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to U.S taxpayers, as race and ethnicity are not part of Heritage immigration policy recommendations,” Gonzalez wrote.
The Heritage Fund is a nonprofit organization supported by corporations and conservative donors. Its attempt to separate itself from the controversy is one that appeals to its funding base, yet its inaction to remove the study from its website calls into question the role the Heritage Fund has in the report’s perpetuation.
Attack on the report
While the authors used the costs associated with public programs to equate the $6.3 trillion price tag, critics allege the report failed to include the costs of these services undocumented immigrants working in America would not be paying into. It also left out costs associated with economic growth generated through immigration.
Costs associated with education, which the report tagged at $12,300 per person annually, were also deemed misleading, as undocumented students are already enrolled in American classrooms.
The typically conservative Washington Post editorial board was first in line to condemn the report.
“The Heritage paper, chock-full of assumptions that most economists dispute, is a blatant attempt to twist the immigration debate,” the editorial states.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Heritage Foundation worked to halt immigration reform legislation. In 2006 and 2007, the organization published two damning reports, complete with accusations that reform would lead to more than 100 million new immigrants in the next two decades.
The Washington Post editorial goes on to claim that the Heritage report failed to include the possibilities that legalizing immigrants already living in the country would spur economic growth through business start-ups and career progression, which would lead to economic prosperity among the demographic and contribute to the overall tax base.
“Moreover, by ignoring the effects of legalization on the overall economy, Heritage failed to take into account the effects on federal revenue as workers emerge from the shadows to start businesses, travel without fear of arrest and deportation, earn higher wages and contribute to job creation,” the editorial states.
Where did the figures come from?
The authors of the Heritage report justified their figures, claiming that despite immigrant workers accounted for through the tax system, many would fall in the “poorly educated,” low-income category, which doesn’t contribute to the “net” tax.
“The high deficits of poorly educated households are important in the amnesty debate because the typical unlawful immigrant has only a 10th-grade education,” the report states. “Half of unlawful immigrant households are headed by an individual with less than a high school degree, and another 25 percent of households heads have only a high school degree.”
The report indicates that numbers were compiled using Department of Homeland Security reports on “the characteristics of unlawful immigrants” to come up with the figures.