Is DeMint Pushing Heritage to Right on Immigration?

ThinkProgress has an interesting post that suggests to me that Jim DeMint, the very far-right former senator who now leads the Heritage Foundation, may be pushing that organization further toward extreme right wing when it comes to immigration reform.

As lawmakers prepare to unveil a comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate, the Heritage Foundation is readying a flawed analysis to counter the momentum for a path to citizenship. The report will reprise Heritage senior fellow Robert Rector’s arguments from 2007 that reform will cost taxpayers at least $2.6 trillion by the time immigrants reach retirement age due to Social Security and Medicare benefits.

But as they note, Heritage took a far different position a few years ago, arguing:

The argument that immigrants harm the American economy should be dismissed out of hand. The population today includes a far higher percentage (12 percent) of foreign-born Americans than in recent decades, yet the economy is strong, with higher total gross domestic product (GDP), higher GDP per person, higher productivity per worker, and more Americans working than ever before. immigration may not have caused this economic boom, but it is folly to blame immigrants for hurting the economy at a time when the economy is simply not hurting…

Whether low-skilled or high-skilled, immigrants boost national output, enhance specialization, and provide a net economic benefit. The 2005 Economic Report of the President (ERP) devotes an entire chapter to immigration and reports that “A comprehensive accounting of the benefits and costs of immigration shows the benefits of immigration exceed the costs.”

Other conservative and libertarian groups are pushing back pretty hard against Heritage on this issue:

CATO rejected Heritage’s methodology in a blog post last week. CATO’s Alex Nowrasteh details 11 factors that Heritage does not consider: “That 2007 report’s flawed methodology produced a grossly exaggerated cost to federal taxpayers of legalizing unauthorized immigrants while undercounting or discounting their positive tax and economic contributions – greatly affecting the 2007 immigration reform debate.” Cato notes that the long path to citizenship also mostly excludes immigrants from access to Medicaid and social services.

Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform also piled on to the criticism. According to Roll Call, ATR wrote to congressional offices on Tuesday, “Unfortunately, Rector’s study was severely flawed in its methodology, and thus in its findings.” They note, “Robert Rector’s work does not speak for the conservative movement; in fact, it does not even speak for the Heritage Foundation.”

This is another good reason not to casually, and falsely, lump Heritage and Cato together. There are some major differences in the policies they advocate and it isn’t, as many so flippantly claim, just because the Cato folks like to smoke pot.

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  • slc1

    Raging Bee to the white courtesy telephone.

  • TGAP Dad

    I see this as a good thing. They veer sharply to the right, and end up on the far margins with the John Birch Society. Now if we can get the Cato Institute to follow their taillights…

  • matty1

    @2 Why would the very group cited in the post as rejecting the Heritage report suddeny lswitch to follow their taillights?