The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation released its report on the economic impact of allowing 11 million or so immigrants an opportunity to obtain legal status Monday.
The study was swiftly met with skepticism and resistance from Members of Congress and economists alike. At issue is the claim that over a lifetime, illegal immigrants granted citizenship would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits under the current proposals while paying back only $3.1 trillion in taxes.
That total amount of benefits included expenditures from Social Security and Medicare as well as social programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and a projected cost of those individuals under Obamacare– leaving the total cost for providing illegal immigrants a way to become citizens $6.3 trillion, according to the Heritage Foundations' report.
But that figure has been criticized by a number of politicians including former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and 2016 presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, who both cited errors with the study's methodology and narrow focus when estimating a person's lifetime earnings when juxtaposed to the benefits they claim.
"The Congressional Budget Office has found that fixing our broken immigration system could help our economy grow. A proper accounting of immigration reform should take into account these dynamic effects," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wrote in a statement.
Senator Rubio also noted some shortcomings with the final version of the report.
"As a pro-growth, fiscal conservative, I have long believed that any legislation impacting our economy can only be fully evaluated by a consideration of both its baseline costs and its impact on growth," Rubio said in a statement.
One point of contention cited by both Ryan and Rubio in the study is that the report calculated the lifetime costs using "static" scoring and not "dynamic" scoring. The latter is a more accurate representation than static scoring when considering how people, households and companies react to various economic policy changes.
One of those objections came from the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, which wrote the following in response to the published study.
"It is imperative that the economic costs and benefits of increased immigration be studied using proper methods and the most recent data … A statically scored prediction assumes the bill will not affect the rest of the economy – which is highly unrealistic. A dynamically scored prediction, on the other hand, assumes that the bill will affect the rest of the economy, also changing tax revenue and government spending."
Critics also hold objections that the report gives too much weight to only the costs of immigrants and does not adequately represent second and third generations, who usually have better education and higher earnings throughout a lifetime. Their contributions to the economy could offset some of the costs produced by first-generation immigrants.
However, The Heritage Foundation's newly elected president, former Senator Jim DeMint, stood by the study and charged that those politicians who came out against the study have something to gain by criticizing it. He claimed opponents' agenda is to pass legislation that would allow illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become full, participating citizens.
"It's clear that any number of people in Washington who would benefit from amnesty, as well as some members of Congress, do not want to consider the costs," DeMint said at a press conference on Monday. "No sensible thinking person could read this study and conclude that over 50 years they could have a positive economic impact."