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Slanting immigration law in favor of the unskilled and uneducated would be costly, said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who has just completed a study on the impact of immigration and the new Senate bill.

“College-educated immigrants are likely to be strong contributors to the government’s finances, with their taxes exceeding the government’s costs,” wrote Mr. Rector, who will release his findings today at a press conference with Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican.

“By contrast, immigrants with low education levels are likely to be a fiscal drain on other taxpayers,” he added. “This is important because half of all adult illegal immigrants in the U.S. have less than a high-school education. In addition, recent immigrants have high levels of out-of-wedlock childbearing, which increases welfare costs and poverty.”

The flood of unskilled workers could cause other problems as well, opponents say.

Because they would be allowed to “self-petition,” their obtaining permanent residency here would bypass the Department of Labor, which currently monitors immigration to ensure that American workers are not displaced by foreign immigrant labor.

But the greatest cost to the U.S. may not be the unskilled workers who immigrate here in the future, but the ones who are already here illegally.

Mr. Rector estimates that the Senate bill would grant citizenship to between 9 million and 10 million illegal aliens. If allowed to become citizens, those immigrants would be permitted to bring their entire extended family, including any elderly parents.

“The long-term cost of government benefits to the parents of 10 million recipients of amnesty could be $30 billion per year or more,” Mr. Rector said. “In the long run, the [Hagel-Martinez] bill, if enacted, would be the largest expansion of the welfare state in 35 years.”