In reports on the Senate immigration bill, CNN's Lou Dobbs and Christian Science Monitor staff writer Gail Russell Chaddock cited a dubious immigration study conducted by Robert Rector of the conservative Heritage Foundation. However, neither Dobbs nor Chaddock noted that independent analysts have questioned the methodology and results of Rector's study, which has reportedly influenced the Senate immigration bill debate.
On the May 24 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs cited a dubious immigration study conducted by Robert Rector, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, claiming that Rector "pointed ... out" that "there would be at the very least 103 million new legal immigrants in this country within the next 20 years" under an earlier version of the Senate immigration bill. Similarly, Christian Science Monitor staff writer Gail Russell Chaddock cited Rector's study in an article documenting the Senate's efforts to pass an immigration law: "Senator [Jeff] Sessions [R-AL] introduced a new report by the Heritage Foundation that claimed that the Senate bill would allow 100 million new legal immigrants into the country over the next 20 years." However, neither Dobbs nor Chaddock noted that independent analysts have questioned the methodology and results of Rector's study, which has reportedly influenced the Senate immigration bill debate.
Rector's study originally claimed that "[i]f enacted, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act [CIRA, S.2611] would ... allow an estimated 103 million persons to legally immigrate to the U.S. over the next 20 years -- fully one-third of the current population of the United States." Rector later reduced that number to 66 million after the Senate passed Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-NM) amendment that would limit the number of legal immigrants who could enter the United States under the bill's guest worker program.
But as Knight Ridder noted in a May 24 article, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in a May 16 report, concluded that the Senate bill -- before incorporating Bingaman's amendment -- would only have allowed approximately 8 million immigrants to enter the United States legally, not the 103 million Rector originally suggested. Moreover, Knight Ridder quoted William Frey of the Brookings Institution saying that Rector's conclusions are "widely unrealistic," and arrived at the 103 million figure by "assum[ing] the maximums, pull[ing] out all the stops for every loophole, possibility, and mak[ing] some assumptions -- some unrealistic -- about how many family members will be brought in."
Further, Dobbs allowed Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) to claim that Rector "has some really good documentation," to show that the cost of the Senate bill "would be $50 billion a year." Inhofe was apparently referring to a different Heritage Foundation study, in which Rector cited figures from the Center on Immigration Studies to claim that the Senate bill would cost the federal government over $50 billion per year:
Total federal welfare benefits would reach around $9,500 per household, or $35 billion per year total. The study estimates that the net cost to the federal government of granting amnesty to some 3.8 million illegal alien households would be around $5,000 per household, for a total federal fiscal cost of $19 billion per year.
But the CBO study estimates that the bill would cost a total of $54 billion between 2007 and 2016: "[E]nacting [the Senate's] legislation would increase direct spending by $13 billion over the 2007-2011 period and by $54 billion over the 2007-2016 period."
From the May 24 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: Well, speaking of outrageous, the fact that Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation had to suggest to the United States Senate that there would be at the very least 103 million new legal immigrants in this country within the next 20 years, and until Robert Rector and the Heritage Foundation pointed that out, the Senate did not see fit to do anything about it until Senator Bingaman introduced his amendment to reduce those visas to a level of 200,000 a year. I mean, what is going on in that august body?
INHOFE: Well, I just talked to Robert Rector. He was in my office. We had a long visit. What is worse than what you just characterized is what's going to happen 11 years from now. This cost, according to Rector, he has some really good documentation, would be $50 billion a year. And the reason it doesn't start until the 10 years is up is because that's when the benefits start.
INHOFE: And, of course, the CBO, they only look at the next 10 years. They can't go beyond 10 years. So, as far as they're concerned, it's not going to be that expensive.
From a May 25 article in the Christian Science Monitor:
In a key vote last week, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D) of North Dakota and Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama -- typically bookends on any vote on social policy - found themselves on the same losing side of a 69-28 vote to limit eligibility for the bill's guest-worker program to protect American jobs. "What on earth are we thinking? Can't there be some modicum of discussion about the effect on American workers?" said Senator Dorgan, introducing his amendment last week.
In support of that amendment, Senator Sessions introduced a new report by the Heritage Foundation that claimed that the Senate bill would allow 100 million new legal immigrants into the country over the next 20 years. He called for a demographic impact statement on the impact of the bill.