WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan Senate immigration bill would cost the government a net $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years to provide benefits for millions of people now living in the United States illegally, the Heritage Foundation said in a report Monday, setting off a fierce dispute with fellow conservatives who attacked the study as flawed and political.
The Heritage study said immigrants granted new legal status under the bill would eat up more than $9 trillion in health, education, retirement and other benefits over their lifetime, while contributing only around $3 trillion in taxes. Republicans and conservative groups who support the bill quickly countered that the study failed to measure broader economic benefits from an immigration overhaul, including a more robust workforce that would boost the gross domestic product.
"The Heritage Foundation document is a political document; it's not a very serious analysis," said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican who's part of a task force with the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center that supports the bill. Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the Heritage Foundation's new president, dismissed such criticism.
The brouhaha developed as both sides prepare for the landmark bill to undergo its first tests later this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will begin voting on amendments Thursday. The Heritage authors acknowledged their report does not attempt to offer a comprehensive analysis of the entire 844-page immigration bill.