- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

The latest iteration of the Senate’s insistence on amnesty is the so-called Hagel-Martinez “compromise” bill. Still there is the disastrous three-tiered amnesty idea — which we’ll be discussing in greater detail in a later editorial — as is a guest-worker program. There are also details President Bush didn’t cite last night.

In a new report by the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector studies Hagel-Martinez to discover how much the amnesty of anywhere between 7 million to 10 million illegal aliens would cost the government. “If enacted,” writes Mr. Rector, the bill “would be the largest expansion of the welfare state in 35 years.” Hagel-Martinez will not create any new entitlement program, but it will mean that the long-term cost to government services from millions of suddenly legalized immigrants and their families could be $30 billion more every year.

Under Hagel-Martinez’s amnesty plan, roughly 60 percent to 85 percent of the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants will be granted citizenship at some future date. As the report notes, lack of education contributes to poverty and half of all adult illegal aliens don’t have a high school degree. Columnist Robert Samuelson has argued that instituting both amnesty and a guest-worker program is like importing poverty. Mr. Rector’s study supports this view by pointing out that over the last 40 years as the education level of new immigrants has declined so have immigrant wages.

What this says is that immigrant families are receiving welfare benefits at a far greater rate than natives. “As the relative education levels of immigrants fell, their tendency to receive welfare benefits increased,” the report found. Immigrants without a high school degree, for instance, are two-and-a-half times more likely to use welfare than native-born individuals.

As opposed to illegal aliens, legal immigrants have access to food stamps, Medicaid, supplemental security income and temporary assistance to needy families. Citing a Center for Immigration Studies’ report, Mr. Rector finds that if all illegals were granted amnesty, federal tax payments would increase by some $3,000 per household, but “federal benefits would increase by $8,000 per household.”

Mr. Rector concludes that granting citizenship to 85 percent of current illegal aliens would increase net federal fiscal costs by $16 billion. However, Hagel-Martinez allows amnestied immigrants to bring their parents into the United States as permanent lawful residents. If only 10 percent of the parents receiving amnesty became citizens, “the extra costs to the government would be over $30 billion per year.”

As Charles Hurt reported yesterday in this paper, little noticed provisions in Hagel-Martinez double the number of extended family members U.S. citizens or legal residents can bring into the country. Meanwhile, the percentage of unskilled laborers allowed into the country, many without high school degrees, would more than triple. We’ve lost count about how many more immigrants that would be, but Mr. Rector’s $30 billion seems to be low-balling it.

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