(CNSNews.com) – The Senate immigration legislation that includes access to federal entitlement programs for illegal aliens after a waiting period is a “travesty” and “an assault on the U.S. taxpayer,” Robert Rector, senior research fellow on domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation, said an event on Wednesday at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
CNSNews.com asked Rector and other panelists at the discussion about past U.S. immigration policy when immigrants coming into the country were required to show that they could earn a livelihood and would not become a ward of the state.
Rector said in the current welfare state, no one is considered a “public charge” but rather a person in need of government assistance.
“The difference is at the time of Ellis Island we didn’t have a $2 trillion redistributive state,” Rector said, adding that the government spends almost a trillion dollars a year helping poor people with 80 different federal assistance programs.
Giving 11 million illegal aliens access to government entitlements is wrong, Rector said.
“We can barely afford to do that for U.S.-born citizens and for legal immigrants,” he said. “But to try to apply this massive system of redistribution to people whose only claim to U.S. taxpayer resources is that they came here and broke the law, I think that’s a travesty, and I think it’s an assault on the U.S. taxpayer that’s unmerited.”
But Robert Lynch, visiting senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and professor of economics at Washington College, said giving 11 million illegal aliens “legal status” and a “pathway to citizenship” would help the U.S. economy.
“What is indisputable is that undocumented immigrants right now are earning far less, paying much less in taxes, and contributing much less to the economy than they potentially could,” Lynch said in his opening statement. “What we know is if we granted them legal status and a pathway to citizenship, we would see a tremendous increase in GDP, productivity, earnings and taxes paid.”
Steve Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, who was also on the panel, argued that the legislation as written would be extremely costly to U.S. taxpayers.
Panelist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former official in the George W. Bush administration and advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, said the immigration reform bill would help illegal aliens and improve the economy.