The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill currently before the Senate would reduce the federal budget deficit by $175 billion over the next ten years. Proponents of the bill, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have hailed the CBO finding (while ignoring other CBO findings, such as that 75% of illegal immigration would continue, contrary to Schumer’s promises.)
Yet if we are to judge the CBO score by the same standard that was used to judge the Heritage Foundation’s estimate that the immigration reform bill will increase the national debt by $6.3 trillion, there is another problem: namely, that the CBO study is racist. That is because, according to the Wall Street Journal, one of the informal peer reviewers of the CBO study was Harvard professor and immigration skeptic George Borjas.
Supporters of the “Gang of Eight” bill attacked Borjas, particularly in the Washington Post, at the time of the Heritage study over accusations that one of the study’s co-authors, Jason Richwine, is a racist. Borjas advised Richwine’s Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard, in which Richwine made controversial claims about the IQ of new immigrants relative to that of native-born white Americans. As such, Borjas himself was presumed to harbor racist views of Hispanics.
The spurious attack on Borjas was used to substantiate the attack on Richwine, who subsequently resigned from Heritage. Proponents of the “Gang of Eight” bill–including some conservatives–barely bothered with the substance of the Heritage study, relying heavily on the racism charge to discredit the $6.3 trillion through guilt-by-association. (The left has used the same methods against conservatives for several decades.)
The substantive difference between the Heritage study and the CBO score partly amounts to a disagreement over a tangential issue: namely, how much future legal immigrants would add to economic growth, and whether that contribution would offset federal spending on the new arrivals. The core of the political issue, however, is not legal immigration but how to stop illegal immigration, and what to do with current illegal aliens.
That is the discussion the nation’s leaders ought to be having. Debate has been clouded, however, by attempts to frame opponents of the “Gang of Eight” bill as racist, of which the attack on the Heritage study was but one example. Those who maligned Borjas and used him to trash a serious inquiry into the fiscal cost of a rushed and ill-conceived policy should now explain why the CBO estimate should be treated any differently.