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Eagle Forum Fudges Immigration Facts

By Heidi Beirich on March 28, 2008 - 6:31 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Conspiracies

The Eagle Forum of Alabama is holding a series of “grassroots workshops” around the state entitled “What YOU can do about Illegal Immigration.” Clearly aimed at riling up nativist fury, the fliers for the event allege that “the average illegal immigrant household receives approximately $30,000 in government benefits each year but pays only $9,000 in taxes.”

The problem, as is often the case with the “facts” nativists dredge up to illustrate the evils of immigration, is that these calculations are wildly misleading at best. The numbers above originate in a quote from Robert Rector that was posted on the website, a new anti-immigration site put up by the conservative Heritage Foundation where Rector is a senior fellow. The website’s title refers to the difference between the two numbers above, $21,000, which Rector alleges is the net cost taxpayers pick up for undocumented workers. “That’s like buying each of these illegal immigrant families a brand new Mustang convertible,” he claims.

Rector is almost certainly wrong, as is reflected in a fact sheet summarizing immigration studies that was put together by the Immigration Policy Center.

According to a 1997 study by the National Research Council, part of the National Academies that also includes the National Academy of Sciences, “the average immigrant pays nearly $1,800 more in taxes than he or she costs in benefits” each year — and undocumented immigrants receive far less in government benefits (for which they are ineligible) than legal immigrants. Generally, the federal government profits the most, because it gets Social Security and other taxes, while state and local governments pick up such costs as emergency medical services for the undocumented. Still, according to a 2006 study by the Texas state comptroller, even “[u]ndocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues, which exceeded the $1.16 billion in state services they received.” A 2007 report by the Iowa Policy Project put it like this: “Rather than draining state resources, undocumented immigrants are in some cases subsidizing services that only documented residents can access.”

That’s not all. Rector’s analysis also fails to take into account the fact that second- and third-generation immigrants increasingly benefit the United States economy, paying more and more taxes and growing the overall economy. And he ignores efficiencies that the economy gains by having these workers available to do the kind of work that most Americans shun, such as agricultural labor. The general consensus among economists is that immigrants of all types — legal and illegal — provide a substantial net benefit to the U.S. economy.

This isn’t the first time that Rector’s been wrong. In 2006, he told the far-right that the proposed Kennedy-McCain immigration reform bill would likely result in a minimum of 103 million legal immigrants in the next 20 years. For that to happen, nearly the entire current population of Mexico would have to migrate to the U.S. And to reach his maximum estimate of 200 million people moving to the United States in that same period, you’d have to throw in the equivalent of the current population of Central America, too.

It’s not surprising that the Eagle Forum is touting misleading information about immigrants. In the last few years, the group has added immigration to its list of social evils, which had long centered on the gay rights movement. In 2005, the group joined the “Secure Borders Coalition.” An alliance of Christian Right groups, hard-right organizations like Accuracy in Media and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and strident anti-immigration outfits including the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the coalition issued a statement attacking all amnesty and guest worker proposals and vowed to oppose any candidate, regardless of his or her stance on other issues, taking a different tack.

Phyllis Schlafly, who heads the Eagle Forum, has also been a major proponent of the dominant conspiracy theory now animating the anti-immigration movement — the so-called “North American Union,” a supposed plot by global elites to surrender American sovereignty in a planned merger with Canada and Mexico. Schlafly has called for a congressional investigation into the North American Union and for the disclosure of supposedly secret documents related to the non-existent union.

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  • roger919

    You don’t have to be for open borders to realize that people here even without authorization deserve to be treated like human beings. There is nothing inherently evil about crossing a border to find work, and there should be a legal means for people entwined in our society to get right with the law. There isn’t now. Laws that don’t respect human dignity are not to be respected. They are to be changed. Are you nativist groups that think the only solution is mass deportation prepared to be accountable for the mass human misery, both to Americans and illegal immigrants, that you will cause?

  • JaDe

    dude there is no way this is going to end in our life time or even or childrens life time. this conflict has been going on for hundreds of centuries… the great wall of china. so obviously, there is no sollution thought of. y would we figure out something that hasn’t been frigured out in… well ever since the cave man decided to make territorry. so is this gonna end some day… probrably not… i’m just saying

  • JustaDog

    Is this gonna end someday??

    Sure – when people that come to America illegally – breaking our laws – stop doing so.

    Simple huh?

  • mesKeninquino

    Is this gonna end someday??

  • John Ramstein

    The slavering open-boarders nut Heidi B strikes again!

    The uncomfortable little truth about Miss Bee’s starry-eyed pro-invader economics is that her studies always leave out the costs associated with taxpayers bearing the costs of anchor babies.

    Since these little bundles of welfare-sopping joy are, through a misapplication of the 14th Amendment, “citizens,” they are not included in the tally of the costs brought to us by invaders. Further, estimates have it that up to a quarter of invader households enjoy welfare benefits through anchor bebes.

    We’re not buying it, HB!

  • JustaDog

    Oh Heidi Beirich – another hate monger. Let’s check your “facts”:

    You printed: “The problem, as is often the case with the “facts” nativists dredge up to illustrate the evils of immigration” – yet in reality your hateful name calling claim left out the important term – illegal!

    Anyone can check the posts on this hate site and easily see that hate authors such as yourself will never associate illegal with immigration.

    The numbers are far worse than your hate site want’s known – illegal children costs the public school system billions, illegals cost health care billions, illegals cost American lives, rape children, are given special protection by organizations like this one, and take jobs away from those legally here.

    Same old story – socialists like yourself believe there should be no borders – which is why you and your hate mongers don’t associate illegal with immigrants.

    Why do you hate the laws of the USA? Why do you hate law-abiding citizens?