Senate Conservatives Press Gang of 8 on Immigration Reform Entitlement Impact *UPDATE*: Rubio's Office Responds

Conservative Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions, and Pat Roberts on Wednesday pressured their Republican colleagues in the “Gang of Eight” pursuing immigration reform to explain, in detail, how their forthcoming proposals will impact entitlement and welfare programs.

Grassley, Sessions, and Roberts wrote to Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Jeff Flake asking for a detailed breakdown of how much the immigration reform bill they are drafting with four Democratic senators will cost taxpayers.

 “A primary concern related to a large-scale legalization of illegal immigrants is the long-term cost for taxpayers,” the three conservative senators, who have a history of working on welfare and food stamp issues, wrote. “The public comments from your group have created confusion."

We therefore write to seek your clarification and to obtain concrete information about the long-term costs that will be imposed on taxpayers once millions of illegal immigrants eventually become eligible not only for our nation’s major entitlements but approximately 80 different means-tested welfare and low-income assistance programs.

“As we discovered through several oversight requests from the Agriculture, Budget, and Judiciary Committees, existing federal immigration law designed to protect taxpayers is not enforced by this administration,” they added. “One of the biggest challenges facing any reform of our nation’s immigration laws is the refusal of this administration to enforce the laws already on the books.”

Grassley, Sessions and Roberts note that according to the Gang of Eight’s preliminary framework released earlier this year, “illegal aliens would not be eligible for certain benefits during a period of probationary status.” But during the recent Senate budget votes, the three conservatives point out that the four Democrats in the Gang of Eight--Sens. Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Michael Bennet, and Robert Menendez--voted against an amendment that held that same principle.

“The rejection of that principle by the Democrat members of your group during a vote on an amendment to the budget raises significant concern,” Grassley, Sessions, and Roberts wrote. “Moreover, even if the bill does contain strong, loophole-free language to this effect, it will only succeed in delaying—not reducing—the cost to taxpayers." They also claimed that "a work requirement as a condition of amnesty would do little to nothing to protect taxpayers over the long term.”

The three conservatives also said, “Once the present illegal population receives green cards, they will be eligible under current law for a wide array of federal welfare programs including food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Medicaid.”

“By their very nature, these programs necessarily represent a net fiscal cost to taxpayers,” they wrote. 

The long-term costs, and the strain on resources for low-income Americans, could be enormous. This was contemplated by lawmakers when crafting and then reaffirming the public charge statute in 1996. These fiscal costs could grow once today’s illegal population is granted citizenship, and could include substantial costs imposed on Medicare and Social Security as low-income former illegal immigrants retire and draw benefits in excess of what they paid into those programs.

Grassley, Sessions, and Roberts then asked McCain, Graham, Rubio, and Flake to commit to obtaining answers to the following seven questions “before any legislation is unveiled”:

  1. Please list all federal benefits, means-tested aid, and other assistance programs explicitly denied to illegal immigrants during their probationary status.
  2. Please list all federal benefits and aid programs former illegal immigrants become eligible for once granted green cards, or permanent residency.
  3. Please provide an estimate of the cost to taxpayers in the first full 10-year window after illegal immigrants are granted green cards and become eligible for federal assistance.
  4. Please provide an estimate of the cost to taxpayers in the first full 10 years of citizenship, including the costs of chain migration.
  5. Please provide an estimate of the increase in cost to our nation’s long-term unfunded obligations, including Medicare, Social Security, and Obamacare, of a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrant population. This should be the recognized 75-year window.
  6. Please provide the specific language your legislation includes to ensure enforcement of the currently unenforced section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  7. Please provide our offices, which have the relevant expertise to analyze fiscal effects, any legislative language concerning the aforementioned questions.

UPDATE: In a statement emailed to Breitbart News, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant responded to the three conservative senators' request by saying:

There is no question that modernizing our immigration system will be help grow our economy and improve our nation’s finances. Senator Rubio and the other seven senators are still working on the legislation, but once it’s completed, we will ask for an in-depth, dynamic study of its long-term benefits and costs. Importantly, no illegal immigrant will receive Federal benefits under our proposal. The Democrats have already agreed to partially repeal Obamacare for illegal immigrants, which is a key concession. Any suggestion that this legislation will extend welfare to illegal immigrants is simply false.

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