Lou Dobbs claimed that "[i]f the Heritage Foundation [hadn't gotten] involved," a recent immigration bill passed by the Senate "would have approved 100 million immigrants into this country." But independent analysts have questioned the methodology and results of a Heritage study to which Dobbs was referring; the study claimed that the Senate bill would allow more than 100 million people to legally immigrate to the U.S. over the next 20 years.
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On the July 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs claimed that "[i]f the Heritage Foundation [hadn't gotten] involved" in the immigration debate, a recent bill passed by the Senate "would have approved 100 million immigrants into this country." Dobbs's statement about Heritage getting "involved" was a reference to a study issued by Heritage claiming that the Senate bill would allow more than 100 million immigrants to enter the U.S. over the next 20 years. The study has been credited with generating support for an amendment to the Senate bill that would reduce the number of immigrants allowed in the U.S. under the bill's proposed guest worker program. However, independent analysts have questioned the methodology and results of the Heritage study, as Media Matters for America noted when Dobbs previously cited it.
The Heritage study, conducted by Robert Rector, 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. According to a May 23 Knight Ridder (now known as McClatchy) article, the Heritage study "helped persuade" the Senate to pass Bingaman's amendment.
The Rector study, which Dobbs has previously cited, has received widespread criticism. For instance, in a June 2 article, The Washington Post noted criticism of the study by an analyst at the Cato Institute:
Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow for the libertarian Cato Institute, said Rector's estimates "are preposterous." He accused Rector of compounding numbers to reach an alarming total and not taking into account that most immigrants who would become legal citizens already live in the country.
"They're basically saying, 'Gee, if we keep illegals illegal, then we would have fewer legal residents,' " Reynolds said.
Further, the Knight Ridder article quoted William Frey of the Brookings Institution stating that Rector's conclusions are "widely unrealistic," and that Rector arrived at the original 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."
Also, government projections for the Senate bill prior to Bingaman's amendment differ significantly from Dobbs' 20 year pre-Bingaman estimate of "100 million" total legal immigrants, or Rector's pre-Bingaman 10-year estimate of 49 million total legal immigrants. As the Knight Ridder article noted, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in a May 16 report, concluded that the Senate bill without Bingaman's amendment would have allowed an additional 8 million immigrants to enter the United States legally over the next 10 years through a guest worker program. In addition, the bill would allow a one-time reclassification of about 11 million immigrants who have resided in the United States for more than 5 years to become citizens if, according to an ABC News article, "they pay $2,000 in fines, pass a background check, learn English, and work for six years." The bill would also allow current legal immigration levels of approximately 1 million a year to continue. Adding the CBO's 10-year projection of 8 million for the guest worker program, plus the one-time reclassification of 11 million for immigrants who have resided in the United States for more than 5 years, and adding 10 million (1 million per year for 10 years) for immigration through the current legal system, yields about 29 million total legal immigrants over the first 10 years of the program. After the first decade of the program, immigration numbers would likely be reduced because applicants under the one-time reclassification provisions would presumably become citizens, as allowed, six years after passage of the bill.
From the July 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: And the Senate would send everyone in this country, every citizen, straight to hell if they had their way. They didn't read the legislation that they wrote, and this -- and it just keeps coming up, creating the requirement to consult with the government of Mexico, before building a fence. I mean, it's just one thing after another. If the Heritage Foundation doesn't get involved in this, the Senate would have approved 100 million immigrants into this country, in addition to what we have over the next 20 years. I mean, they don't even know what they're doing.