“Undocumented Americans.” This is how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently described the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens living in America. What was once a Mark Steyn joke has now become the ideological orthodoxy of the Democratic Party.
Reid’s comment triggered an avalanche of outrage among commentators, bloggers, and the general public. Why? Because it strikes at the heart of the American people’s understanding of themselves as a nation and a civilization. Indeed, opposition to the ongoing push for “comprehensive immigration reform” — i.e., amnesty and a guest worker program — is being driven by a growing concern among millions of Americans that massive waves of legal and illegal immigration — mainly from Mexico, Latin America, and Asia — coupled with the unwillingness of our political and economic elites to mold these newcomers into red-white-and-blue Americans, is threatening to change the very character of our country. For the worse.
I share this concern. I agree with the political, economic, and cultural arguments in favor of sharply curtailing immigration into the United States, as well as refocusing our immigration efforts on admitting those foreigners who bring the greatest value to — and are most easily assimilated into — American society. (See generally here, here , and here.) But this essay is not intended to rehash these arguments. Rather, I wish to explore the question that underlies this entire debate: What does it mean to be an American? This may seem like an easy question to answer, but it’s not. The harder one thinks about this question, the more complex it becomes.
Clearly, Harry Reid has not given this question much thought. His implicit definition of “an American” is simply: Anyone living within the geopolitical boundaries of the United States. In other words, mere physical location on Earth determines whether or not someone is “an American.” Presumably, Reid’s definition is not intended to apply to tourists and other temporary visitors. Some degree of permanency — what the law in other contexts calls “residency,” i.e., a subjective intention to establish one’s home or domicile — is required. In Reid’s view, therefore, a Mexican from Guadalajara, a Chinese from Shanghei, an Indian from Delhi, or a [fill in the blank] become “Americans” as soon as they cross into U.S. territory and decide to live here permanently, legally or not. Nothing more is needed.
This is poppycock, of course. A Mexican or a Chinese or an Indian, for example, cannot transform themselves into Americans simply by moving to this country, any more than I can become a Mexican, a Chinese, or an Indian simply by moving to their countries. Yet contemporary liberals have a vested interest in believing that they can. This is not just a function of immigrant politics, which strongly favors the Democratic Party (hence the Democrats’ growing support for voting rights for non-citizens). It also reflects the liberals’ (and some libertarians’) multicultural faith, which insists that it is morally wrong to make distinctions among different groups of people, let alone to impose a particular way of life — what heretofore has been known as the American way of life — on those who believe, speak, and act differently. Even in our own country.
In short, diversity, not Americanism, is the multicultural touchstone.
What’s more, the principle of diversity, taken to its logical extreme, inevitably leads to a rejection of Americanism. Indeed, the ideology of multiculturalism has its roots in the radical — and anti-American — New Left and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Thus the sorry state of U.S. history and civics education in today’s schools and universities, which are dominated by adherents of this intellectual poison. Moreover, when it comes to immigration, multiculturalists actually prefer those immigrants who are as unlike ordinary Americans as possible. This stems from their deep-rooted opposition to traditional American society, which they hope to undermine through an influx of non-western peoples and cultures.
This, in fact, describes present U.S. immigration policy, which largely is a product of the 1965 Immigration Act (perhaps Ted Kennedy’s most notorious legislative achievement). The 1965 Immigration Act eliminated the legal preferences traditionally given to European immigrants, and opened the floodgates to immigration from less-developed and non-western countries. For example, in 2006 more immigrants came to the United States from Columbia, Peru, Vietnam, and Haiti (not to mention Mexico, China, and India), than from the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Greece. And once these immigrants arrive here, multiculturalists believe we should accommodate our society to the needs and desires of the newcomers, not the other way around. Thus, our government prints election ballots, school books, and welfare applications in foreign languages, while corporate America asks customers to “press one for English.”
Patriotic Americans — those who love our country for its people, its history, its culture, and its ideals — reject the multiculturalists’ denuded, and ultimately subversive, vision of what it means to be “an American.” While the American identity is arguably the most “universal” of all major nationalities — as evidenced by the millions of immigrants the world over who have successfully assimilated into our country over the years — it is not an empty, meaningless concept. It has substance. Being “an American” is not the same thing as simply living in the United States. Nor, I would add, is it the same thing as holding U.S. citizenship. After all, a baby born on U.S. soil to an illegal alien is a citizen. This hardly guarantees that this baby will grow up to be an American.
So what, then, does it mean to be an American? I suspect that most of us believe, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in describing pornography, that we “know it when we see it.” For example, John Wayne, Amelia Earhart, and Bill Cosby definitely are Americans. The day laborers standing on the street corner probably are not. But how do we put this inner understanding into words? It’s not easy. Unlike most other nations on Earth, the American nation is not strictly defined in terms of race or ethnicity or ancestry or religion. George Washington may be the Father of Our Country (in my opinion, the greatest American who ever lived), but there have been in the past, and are today, many millions of patriotic, hardworking, upstanding Americans who are not Caucasian, or Christian, or of Western European ancestry. Yet they are undeniably as American as you or I (by the way, I am Jewish of predominantly Eastern European ancestry). Any definition of “American” that excludes such folks — let alone one that excludes me! — cannot be right.
Consequently, it is just not good enough to say, as some immigration restrictionists do, that this is a “white-majority, Western country.” Yes, it is. But so are, for example, Ireland and Sweden and Portugal. Clearly, this level of abstraction does not take us very far towards understanding what it means to be “an American.” Nor is it all that helpful to say that this is an English-speaking, predominately Christian country. While I think these features get us closer to the answer, there are millions of English-speaking (and non-English-speaking) Christians in the world who are not Americans, and millions of non-Christians who are. Certainly, these fundamental historical characteristics are important elements in determining who we are as a nation. Like other restrictionists, I am opposed to public policies that seek, by design or by default, to significantly alter the nation’s “demographic profile.” Still, it must be recognized that demography alone does not, and cannot, explain what it means to be an American.
So where does that leave us? I think the answer to our question, ultimately, must be found in the realms of ideology and culture. What distinguishes the United States from other nations, and what unites the disparate peoples who make up our country, are our unique political, economic, and social values, beliefs, and institutions. Not race, or religion, or ancestry.
Whether described as a “proposition nation” or a “creedal nation” or simply just “an idea,” the United States of America is defined by our way of life. This way of life is rooted in the ideals proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; in the system of personal liberty and limited government established by the Constitution; in our traditions of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and entrepreneurism; in our emphasis on private property, freedom of contract, and merit-based achievement; in our respect for the rule of law; and in our commitment to affording equal justice to all. Perhaps above all, it is marked by our abiding belief that, as Americans, we have been called to a higher duty in human history. We are the “city upon a hill.” We are “the last, best hope of earth.”
Many immigration restrictionists and so-called traditionalists chafe at the notion that the American people are not defined by “blood and soil.” Yet the truth of the matter is, we aren’t. One of the greatest patriots who ever graced this nation’s history, Teddy Roosevelt, said it best: “Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul.” Roosevelt deplored what he called “hyphenated Americanism,” which refers to citizens whose primary loyalties lie with their particular ethnic groups or ancestral lands. Such a man, Roosevelt counseled, is to be “unsparingly condemn[ed].”
But Roosevelt also recognized that “if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.” Roosevelt’s words are not offered here to suggest that all foreigners are equally capable of assimilating into our country. Clearly, they aren’t. Nevertheless, the appellation “American” is open to anyone who adopts our way of life and loves this country above all others.
Which brings me to the final, and most difficult, aspect of this question: How do we define the “American way of life”? This is the issue over which our nation’s “culture wars” are being fought. Today the country is divided between those who maintain their allegiance to certain historically American values, beliefs, and institutions (but not all — see racial segregation), and those who want to replace them with a very different set of ideas about the role of government, the nature of political and economic liberty, and the meaning of right and wrong. Are both sides in this struggle equally “American”?
Moreover, the “American way of life” has changed over time. We no longer have the Republic that existed in TR’s days. The New Deal and Great Society revolutions — enthusiastically supported, I note, by millions of white, Christian, English-speaking citizens — significantly altered the political, economic, and social foundations of this country. Did they also change what it means to be “an American”? Is being an American equally compatible, for example, with support for big government versus small government? the welfare state versus rugged individualism? socialism versus capitalism? And so on. Plainly, this is a much harder historical and intellectual problem than at first meets the eye.
Personally, I do not think the meaning of America is nearly so malleable as today’s multiculturalists assume. But neither is it quite as narrow as many restrictionists contend. Nevertheless, I am convinced that being an American requires something more than merely living in this country, speaking English, obeying the law, and holding a job (although this would be a very good start!). What this “something more” is, however, is not self-evident, and, indeed, is the subject of increasingly bitter debate in this country.
Yet one thing is certain: If we stray too far from the lines laid down by the Founding Fathers and the generations of great American men and women who built on their legacy, we will cease to be “Americans” in any meaningful sense of the word. As Abraham Lincoln warned during the secession era, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Today the danger is not armed rebellion, but the slow erasing of the American national character through a process of political and cultural redefinition. If this ever happens, it will be a terrible day for this country, and for the world.
Steven M. Warshawsky is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.
The Associated Press reported on June 25, 2007 that “Months of tumultuous negotiations with the White House and GOP allies have brought the Senate’s liberal lion, Edward M. Kennedy, to the brink of passing a bill to legalize up to 12 million unlawful immigrants.”
For a super-power that spends nearly half-a-trillion dollars on defense, the U.S. borders remain more porous than most Third World countries. The defenseless American borders have naturally invited an invasion of Third World people onto American shores. With ever-cheaper air travel and large cargo ships, used by lucrative smuggler operations that bring poor, uneducated, and unwelcome invaders from Asia and Central and South America, the U.S. may be overrun in 40-50 years.
China and India could each shed 300 million people without even feeling the loss. No doubt their departure would be met with a sense of relief. In addition, millions of poor Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are aiming to come to America, some for economic reasons, others to Islamize this “infidel” nation. And, while illegal sub-Saharan Africans reach Europe in rickety boats, illegals from Central America and the Caribbean are entering the U.S. through Mexico or simply by landing on Florida’s shores.
Political correctness has skewed the debate on immigration by leveling charges of racism and intolerance on those who have concerns about security and the future of America. But the reality is that if current immigration patterns continue and if legalization is extended to 12 million illegal aliens, America’s culture could shift radically from the America most of us have known.
In 1921, the U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act followed, in 1924, by the Immigration Act. The quotas instituted by the 1924 Immigration Act were aimed at reducing the number of unskilled laborers from entering and maintaining ethnic distribution. British, German and North Europeans received the highest quotas, while the quotas for Jews and East and South Europeans were much lower. No quotas were set for Mexico and Latin America at that time.
It is ironic that in the 1880’s, with the increased arrival of Italians and Jews, some American elites viewed the U.S. as being a “dumping ground” – prompting the Immigration Act of 1924. Italian and Jewish immigrants, however, would go on to become two of the best examples of immigrant groups who best contributed to the “melting pot.” Both communities learned English quickly and within a generation or two rose to middle class status and beyond.
The majority of illegal immigrants from Mexico have not however followed this “melting pot” pattern; they’ve been told not to. Up until 1965 U.S. immigration quotas favored Europeans. Today, however, Europeans account for approximately 10% of all arriving immigrants, with the majority coming from Asia and Latin America. Martin Gross in his 1997 book The End of Sanity cites an example of how a middle class French female professional could not get a visa to the U.S. despite numerous attempts, yet thousands of Pakistanis somehow made their way to American shores.According to the 1920 Census Bureau – U.S. Department of Commerce figures (2004 edition of World Almanac) the top seven foreign born Americans came from Germany, Italy, Soviet Union, Poland, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland. In 1960, they were from Italy, Germany, Canada, Great Britain, Poland, Soviet Union, and Mexico. By 2000 Europeans were not even in any of the top 10 slots. The top eight at that time were: Mexico, Philippines, China and Hong Kong, India, Cuba, Vietnam, El Salvador, and Korea. The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (Hart-Celler Act, INS Act of 1965) abolished the national-origin quotas that had been in place in the U.S. since 1924. The legislation was proposed by Emanuel Celler and heavily supported by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), the same person who is leading the campaign for the current immigration bill. As Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chairman, Ted Kennedy promised his colleagues and the nation that, “First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset … Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia … In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think.“ Kennedy concluded by saying, “The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.” (U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization of the Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 1965. pp. 1-3.) Ted Kennedy was wrong on every count. America has been inundated with illegal Mexican “immigrants,” and millions of Asians. The ethnic balance has changed in measurable ways. The multiculturalists have won the day, and instead of a melting pot we now have a society of hyphented Americans. Admission standards were not enforced and were instead relaxed, how else could we account for 12 million undocumented aliens? And now Kennedy is ready to dismiss the rule of law by advocating that 12 million undocumented illegal aliens be granted a path to citizenship. Our cities are filled with non-English speaking immigrants – legal and illegal. Kennedy should spend some time in Flushing, Queens (a New York borough), Jersey City, NJ, or the barrios and foreign-language neighborhoods of Los Angeles, instead of Aspen and fancy cocktail parties in leading hotels. He would see what cities are currently grappling with and that the legalization of illegals will only compound an already unmanageable problem. Ted Kennedy led America astray by helping to pass the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. This is the last opportunity for Americans to wake up and make their voices heard for an America that protects its borders and defends the rule of law.
Hiding the Cost of Amnesty
By Robert Rector
Heritage Foundation | June 27, 2007
Last week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a report entitled “Immigration’s Economic Impact” which defended the President’s promotion of the Senate’s “comprehensive” immigration legislation (S.1348). On June 25, the White House issued a follow-up editorial elaborating on the points made in the CEA report. These publications criticized Heritage Foundation research on the fiscal costs of low skill immigration and amnesty.
The Heritage research criticized by the White House made the following basic points about immigration and its costs:
Heritage research has shown that low skill immigrants (those without a high school degree) receive, on average, three dollars in government benefits and services for each dollar of taxes they pay. This imbalance imposes a net cost of $89 billion per year on U.S. taxpayers. Over a lifetime, the typical low skill immigrant household will cost taxpayers $1.2 million.
Future taxpayer costs will be increased by policies which increase (1) the number of low skill immigrants entering the U.S., (2) the length of low skill immigrants’ stays in the U.S., or (3) low skill immigrants’ access to government benefits and services. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Senate immigration bill does:
Heritage research has concluded that the cost of amnesty alone will be $2.6 trillion once the amnesty recipients reach retirement age.
In an effort to defend the Senate bill, the White has contested these conclusions. As described below, many of the assertions made by the White House are inaccurate or misleading.
The White House claims that, under the Senate immigration bill, amnesty recipients would receive little or no welfare.
CEA Chairman Edward Lazear charged that the Heritage claims concerning the cost of the Senate immigration bill were flawed because, under the bill, amnesty recipients would be barred from receiving “the vast majority of welfare benefits.” Like previous statements by White House spokesmen, this assertion mischaracterizes the Senate bill and also shows a lack of understanding of the Heritage estimates of the bill’s costs.
While provisions of the Senate bill would delay illegal immigrants’ access to welfare for several years, over time, nearly all amnesty recipients would be offered legal permanent residence and access to more than 60 federal means-tested welfare programs. Specifically, Z visa holders would immediately be given Social Security numbers and would begin earning entitlement to Social Security and Medicare (which are not means-tested welfare programs). Some ten to thirteen years after enactment, amnesty recipients would begin to gain access to a wide variety of means-tested welfare programs, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, public housing, and Food Stamps. Children born to illegal and legal immigrants in the U.S. have immediate, lifetime access to all welfare programs.
The initial limitation on the receipt of means-tested welfare will have only a small effect on governmental costs. Adult welfare comprises only a small part of the benefits received by immigrant families. Moreover, the average adult amnesty recipient can be expected to live more than 50 years after receiving his Z visa. While his eligibility for means-tested welfare would be constrained for the first 10 to 15 years, each amnesty recipient would be fully eligible for welfare during the last 30 to 40 years of his life. Use of welfare during these years will be heavy.
The White House claims that, to the extent that amnesty recipients receive welfare benefits, they would receive the same low levels of benefits as other poorly educated immigrants, who (in the White House’s view) receive little welfare.
The White House reassures taxpayers that amnesty recipients and millions of future low skill immigrants will not generate welfare costs because they must “qualify for…government [welfare] transfers only the old fashioned way.” The implication is that those who must struggle to earn access to welfare “the old fashioned way” will, in the end, get very little welfare. Contrary to this claim, the average low skill immigrant family actually receives $10,500 per year in means-tested welfare, or about a half million dollars over the course of a lifetime. Amnesty recipients would indeed gain access to welfare “the old fashioned way,” and the old fashioned way is extraordinarily expensive.
The brief delay in adult access to welfare under S. 1348 and current law would have only a tiny effect on the long-term welfare costs of low skill immigrants. Further, the White House’s touting the delays on immigrants receiving welfare under existing law is hypocritical: The actual policy pursued by the White House up to this time has been to dismantle the barriers in current law and increase immigrant families’ access to welfare.
The White House strongly suggests that, under the Senate immigration bill, amnesty recipients would be net tax contributors.
Some 50 to 60 percent of illegal immigrants who would receive amnesty under S. 1348 lack a high school degree. Another 25 percent have only a high school degree. Based on the example of current immigrants with similar levels of education, these individuals would be a net burden on the taxpayer over the entire course of their lives.
The White House claims that amnesty recipients would increase the net government revenue available to support Americans in retirement.
The White House trumpets that “immigrants improve the solvency of our retirement system.” One must assume that they believe that the same will be true of amnesty recipients, because otherwise the assertion would be irrelevant in the current debate. The White House does correctly point out that amnesty recipients would pay Social Security taxes during their working years. Amnesty recipients’ low skill levels, however, mean that the Social Security tax payments they make would, on average, be quite modest.
More important is the fact that, in future years, Social Security benefits will be funded by both Social Security taxes and general revenue. What matters is not the small amount of Social Security taxes that would be paid by amnesty recipients but their overall fiscal balance—that is, the total federal state and local benefits received, minus all taxes paid. Because the total benefits taken by amnesty recipients and their families would exceed the Social Security and other taxes that they would pay, amnesty recipients would undermine, rather than strengthen, financial support for U.S. retirees, even before the amnesty recipients reach retirement age themselves.
The White House suggests that the retirement costs of amnesty recipients would not impose a significant tax burden on U.S. taxpayers.
The Senate bill would give amnesty recipients access not only to means-tested welfare, but also to government retirement benefits. The Heritage Foundation has estimated that the net fiscal costs of amnesty recipients during retirement would be $2.6 trillion. These particular costs would begin to impact the taxpayer about 30 years after enactment of the Senate legislation. The White House has made no specific refutation of this estimate.
The bulk of the net expenditure would be in the Social Security and Medicare programs; substantial costs would also occur in the means-tested Medicaid program (amnesty recipients would be fully eligible for Medicaid benefits long before they reach retirement). Contrary to any suggestions made by the White House, temporary restrictions on access to means-tested welfare by amnesty recipients is irrelevant to the estimated $2.6 trillion cost of amnesty.
The White House does point out that amnesty recipients will have paid Social Security taxes prior to retirement and thereby might be seen as having “earned” all the government benefits they would receive. But, as noted above, the Social Security taxes paid by amnesty recipients would be modest. Even during working years, most amnesty recipients would be a drain on the taxpayer, and during retirement their fiscal cost would be dramatic.
The White House claims that the Senate immigration bill would benefit U.S. taxpayers by increasing the future flow of high skill immigrants (who would be strong net tax contributors) and decreasing the flow of low skill immigrants who are more likely to be a fiscal burden.
The White House claims that the Senate immigration bill would “sharply improve” the fiscal contributions of immigrants by increasing the share of future immigrants who are high skilled. It asserts, “[T]he bill will end chain migration which allows legal immigrants to bring extended family members to the U.S” and replace it with a “new merit-based system to select future immigrants based on [their]…skills and attributes.”
In reality, the bill would triple the annual rate of family chain migration, raising the annual allotment for these immigrants from the current level of 147,000 to 440,000 and bringing up to 5.9 million such immigrants into the U.S. over the next decade. Family chain immigrants are predominately low skilled: 60 percent have only a high school degree or less and 38 percent lack a high school degree.
What about the new merit-based system, ostensibly intended to bring in highly educated high tech workers? The core of this proposal is a point system to select future green card holders, but this point system is far from merit-based. For example, green card applicants would receive a high number of points if they are currently employed in “high demand” occupations, which include janitor, waitress, sales clerk, fast food worker, freight handler, laborer, grounds keeping worker, food preparation worker, maid, and house cleaner. Under the proposed point system, a high school dropout working in a fast food restaurant who has the recommendation of her employer would outscore an applicant with a Ph.D. trying to enter the country from abroad. The merit system is actually designed to confer citizenship on low skill “temporary guest workers” rather than bring in professionals from abroad.
The bill would eliminate the current green card allocation for workers of “exceptional ability” but allocate 90,000 green cards per year for the next eight years to reduce the existing employment visa backlog of primarily low skill workers. Contrary to White House claims, it seems unlikely that S. 1348 would increase the number of green cards for high-skill workers, at least through the first eight years of operation.
The White House claims high school dropouts are a “very small part” of the immigrant population.
The Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers dismissed Heritage research on the negative fiscal impact of poorly educated immigrants as “relevant only to a very small part of the population” and therefore of little importance in assessing the Senate immigration bill. In reality, a large and disproportionate share of current immigrants in the U.S. is poorly educated. One-third of all current immigrants lack a high school degree, compared to nine percent of native-born Americans. The families of immigrants without a high school degree now comprise 5 percent of the U.S. population. As noted, among the ten million adult illegal immigrants who would receive amnesty and citizenship under the Senate’s immigration bill, some 50 to 60 percent lack a high school degree and many have only a high school degree.
The White House asserts that low skill immigrant families impose a substantially lesser burden on taxpayers than do low skill non-immigrant families.
The White House asserts, “[L]ow-skill immigrants are actually comparatively self-sufficient compared to low skill native households.” This assertion is false. Low skill immigrants and non-immigrants impose similar burdens on the taxpayer. Wages, tax payments, and receipt of welfare are quite similar for the two groups. Low skill non-immigrants differ from immigrants primarily because they are more likely to be elderly and therefore less likely to be employed.
The White House asserts that the children of low skill immigrants quickly become fiscal contributors (taxes paid exceed benefits and services received) and thereby compensate taxpayers for nearly all the fiscal losses generated by their parents.
The White House has suggested that while low skill immigrants may impose some initial taxpayer costs, these costs are “recovered quickly” by the net taxes paid by the immigrants’ children. This is not true. Low skill immigrants impose very heavy costs on U.S. taxpayers. As noted, on average, each low skill immigrant household receives three dollars in benefits for each one dollar of taxes paid; over a lifetime, each household costs the taxpayer more than $1 million.
The children of low skill immigrants do better than their parents. With higher levels of education, they will receive fewer welfare benefits and pay more taxes. Nonetheless, despite this upward progress, the children of immigrant dropouts are likely to remain a net drain on the taxpayers.
The White House asserts that the “children of immigrant parents are 12 percent more likely to obtain a college degree than other natives.” It neglects to note that the relevant group, the children of low skill immigrant parents, have below-average educational attainment. For example, the children of Hispanic dropout parents are three times more likely to drop out of high school and 75 percent less likely to have a college degree than the general population.
With prevailing trends in upward mobility, the descendents of immigrant dropouts will not become net tax contributors until the third generation. This means that the net fiscal impact of low skill immigrants will remains negative for 50 to 60 years after the immigrants’ arrival in the U.S.
The White House obscures the cost of low skill immigrants.
The White House report asserted that Heritage Foundation research on low skill immigrants is flawed because it lacks a “forward looking projection.” The Council of Economic Advisers stated that, from the ‘long-run point of view,” low skill immigrants are remarkably inexpensive: Each immigrant without a high school degree costs the taxpayer a mere $13,000 overall. The CEA failed to note that its “long-run point of view” includes the estimated taxes paid by the low skill immigrants’ descendents for the next 300 years. In other words, the White House is asserting that taxpayers should not be concerned about the $89 billion annual cost generated by low skill immigrants because that cost would be largely offset by the taxes paid by the immigrants’ descendents in the year 2407. In addition, the 300-year estimate cited by White House assumes very large tax increases and benefits reductions in the near future.
In its defense of the Senate immigration bill, the White House employs statistics about the fiscal contributions of college-educated immigrants, but the taxes paid by college-educated immigrants are almost completely irrelevant to a fiscal analysis of S. 1348. The main fiscal impact of S. 1348 will occur through two mechanisms: (1) the grant of amnesty, with accompanying access to Social Security, Medicare and welfare benefits, to 12 million illegal immigrants who are overwhelmingly low skilled; and (2) a dramatic increase in chain immigration, which will also be predominantly low skilled.
In this context, talking about the taxes paid by college-educated immigrants is a red herring and merely serves to obscure the obvious fiscal consequences of the legislation.
The bottom line is that high school dropouts are extremely expensive to U.S. taxpayers. It does not matter whether the dropout comes from Ohio, Tennessee, or Mexico. It does matter that the Senate immigration bill would increase the future flow of poorly educated immigrants into the U.S. and grant amnesty and access to government benefits to millions of poorly educated illegal aliens already here. Such legislation would inevitably impose huge costs on U.S. taxpayers.
 The President’s Council of Economic Advisers, “Immigration’s Economic Impact,” June 20, 2007.
 Karl Zinsmeister and Edward Lazear, “Lead Weight or Gold Mine: What are the True Costs of Immigration?” RealClearPolitics, June 25, 2007.
 Robert Rector and Christine Kim, “The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Immigrants to the U.S. Taxpayer,” Heritage Foundation Special Report No. 14, May 21, 2007.
 Robert Rector, “Amnesty will Cost the U.S. Taxpayers at least $2.6 Trillion,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1490, June 6, 2007, at www.heritage.org/Research/Immigration/wm1490.cfm.
 Lori Montgomery, “Immigration Lifts Wages, Report Says,” Washington Post, June 21, 2007, p. D3.
 “Response to False Claims That Illegal Immigrants Will Not Receive Welfare Under Senate Bill,” Robert E. Rector, Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1509, June 18, 2007.
 Zinsmeister and Lazear.
 The White House, “Fact Sheet: Ending Chain Migration,” May 29, 2007, at www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/immigration/.
 Robert Rector, “Merit-based Immigration under S. 1348: Bringing in the High Tech Waitresses,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1492, June 7, 2007.
 Tamar Jacoby, “‘Temporary is Temporary’ Won’t Work for All Immigrants,” Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2007, at www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-jacoby10may10,0,923297.story.
 Interview with Edward Lazear, “Washington Journal,” C-SPAN, June 21, 2007.
 Zinsmeister and Lazear.
 Montgomery, “Immigration Lifts Wages, Report Says.”
 This conclusion is based on forthcoming research by The Heritage Foundation that employs the fiscal methodology of Rector and Kim, “The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Immigrants to the U.S. Taxpayer.”
 Zinsmeister and Lazear.
 The President’s Council of Economic Advisers, “Immigration’s Economic Impact,” p. 5
 National Research Council, The New Americans: Economic, Demographic and Fiscal Effects of Immigration (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997), pp. 334, 342.