Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, now the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Tuesday that his former colleagues’ largely secret negotiations about immigration reform are troubling. A bipartisan group, dubbed the “Gang of Eight,” has been spearheading immigration reform efforts for months, and no legislative text has been presented to date. When it is presented, Democratic leadership in the Senate and Republican leadership in the House are expected to try to rush the bill through to passage.
In remarks to the Heritage Foundation’s Blogger’s Briefing on Tuesday, DeMint expressed concern over the behind-closed-doors formulation of legislation, which he knows from experience is actually being written by special interests and staffers. “And the members who are involved with this haven’t seen it or read it. They’re being told what’s going to be in it,” he said.
“What we believe at Heritage is that this should be an open and transparent process, and it should be step-by-step so Americans can be brought along with what needs to be changed,” DeMint added. “In 1986 we had three million unlawful folks in our country, promises were made on the floor of the House and Senate that if we gave an amnesty this would never happen again. We would secure our borders, we would fix our system.” Neither of these promises were kept.
The Heritage Foundation is currently drafting a peer-reviewed research analysis aimed at discovering the true cost of immigration reform to taxpayers. Details of the Heritage analysis, being conducted by Robert Rector, have not been made public yet. But the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff estimates immigration reform will cost taxpayers trillions more in entitlement and welfare spending. “What Heritage is doing right now and we’re working with some of best guys in the business, scholars like Robert Rector who developed the groundbreaking welfare reform research and policy work and he developed the cost that a lot of us used back in 2007 that helped us realize that this was not free,” DeMint said, referring to Rector’s report “The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Immigrants to the U.S. Taxpayer.”
The former Senator drew a distinction between the average taxpayer and representatives of labor and business who are involved in drafting the legislation. “Amnesty is not a free proposition to taxpayers. So we’re going to quantify that cost. I can guarantee you Heritage will be the only organization in the country that is looking at the true cost of a blanket amnesty proposal.”
Americans for Tax Report and the Cato Institute have already attacked Heritage and Rector, claiming that Rector’s 2007 study was flawed. When asked about the preemptive strike, DeMint replied: “Criticism of a report they hadn’t seen yet? Sounds like Washington.”