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Foundation to criticize immigration measure's cost

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By Bloomberg News
Friday, May 3, 2013, 6:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Jim DeMint, who retired from the Senate to head the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, will lead an attack on a proposed immigration overhaul with a report from the conservative institute on the costs government would bear in offering a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented workers in the country.

The report is expected as the Senate Judiciary Committee starts weighing the immigration bill next week.

Heritage will build its case on the presumption that legalizing undocumented immigrants will increase participation in already strained federal programs such as Social Security, which provides retirement benefits for the elderly, Medicare and Medicaid, which provide health care for the elderly and impoverished, and food stamps, public assistance for the poor.

Heritage wouldn't reveal its newest figures before the release of its report. In 2007, the last time Washington took a stab at an immigration bill, the foundation presented research showing that low-skilled immigrants paid significantly less in taxes than they received in government assistance, leading to long-term taxpayer costs of more than $2 trillion in the revision that lawmakers were debating.

Advocates of the immigration measure, which has bipartisan support, point to congressional data showing that the potential costs are exaggerated and cite the economic benefit of legally employing millions of people.

“The cost issue is the big test point that critics have to make,” said Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian policy group in Washington, who views the possible costs to government programs as overstated.

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