By Megan Taros, May 08, 2013 07:24 PM EDT
(PHOTO CREDIT: NCLR/Heritage) Lisa Navarrete, left, from NCLR and Jason Richwine
As the House and Senate enter a battle regarding immigration reform, the Heritage Foundation released its study declaring the "Gang of 8's" immigration bill costly while critics countered by questioning the Foundation's integrity.
This coincides with scrutiny facing the study's co-author Jason Richwine, who in 2009 penned a thesis assessing that, due in part to genetics, the IQ of Hispanic immigrants is not on par with white U.S. natives, the Washington Post revealed Wednesday.
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"The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market," Richwine wrote.
Lisa Navarrete, a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza, a progressive organization focused on immigration and immigrant rights, called Richwine's comments "unspeakable," claiming that the opinions of vehement opposers of immigration are often mired in racism and pseudo-science.
"This gentleman's PhD dissertation shows that when you scratch the surface of extreme immigration opposition you find a disturbing and troubling history with racism, a belief in eugenics. It's just troubling and disturbing," she said. "It's bigotry disguised as science."
The NCLR echoed sentiments from political critics questioning the methodology employed by the Heritage Foundation, asserting that the study overlooks time-tested data about the benefits of immigration on the U.S. economy.
"The study basically only looks at the costs-that is, the potential costs-and not the benefits. It's absurd. There's plenty of other studies that show the fiscal growth and economic benefits of immigration, even in studies conducted by conservatives," Navarrete said. "You don't have to listen to us, a progressive pro-immigrant organization, on this--it's been proven by their own constituency."
Meanwhile, the comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill penned by a group known as the "Gang of 8" is receiving backlash by Republican House members and is the driving factor behind the Heritage Foundation's report.
Senators behind the bipartisan bill, including John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, released the bill last month. It outlines a path for the 11 million undocumented immigrants to receive citizenship based on a merit system.
The bill creates a 13-year pathway to citizenship with the merit system being employed 5 years after the bill's passage. Republicans argue that granting amnesty for the undocumented would create a wave of new immigrants and thereby hurt U.S. taxpayers.
Hence the bill includes a stipulation for stricter borders, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to spend $6.5 billion over the course of 10 years before any immigrant could apply for permanent resident cards, the first major stepping stone to citizenship.
The merit system would open the door for up to 120,000 people a year to get green cards upon garnering enough points, which will be awarded based on job status, skills and education level. Familial ties in the U.S. will be considered, but the bill attempts to move away from the current system that largely favors immigrants with family members already in the U.S.
Presently, about 75 percent of visas are awarded based on family ties. The bill intends to even this out to a 50-50 system.
The Heritage Foundation's study, while purporting a support for skilled immigrants, primarily analyzed the costs and benefits granted to undocumented immigrants over the course of their lifetimes in the U.S., concluding that amnesty is a $6.3 billion expenditure.
The study broke the spending down into several phases:
House Republicans are generally in alignment with the study's findings and proposed solutions, arguing that the bill should be a piecemeal legislation, which would solve individual problems with the current system step-by-step.
"By taking a fine-tooth comb through each of the individual issues within the larger immigration debate, it will help us get a better bill that will benefit Americans and provide a workable immigration system," Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va, said.
Republicans have yet to reveal the details of their proposition, but have said that the amendment follows in the footsteps of many of the goals outlined in the original bill, without the supposed damaging effects on the economy or the labor force.
Members of the "Gang of 8" told the Huffington Post that immigration reform has been a failure in the past due to adding on ineffective amendments that derail the comprehensive goals of the bills.
"We can't do individual bills because the problem is people say, 'What about me?'" Sen. Schumer told reporters. "What we found is, ironically, it may be a little counterintuitive, but the best way to pass immigration legislation is actually a comprehensive bill because that can achieve more balance, and everybody can get much, but not all, of what they want."
After a problematic showing of the Heritage Foundation and Richwine's comments coming to the surface, Hispanic leaders also slammed this opposition as a hindrance to productive discourse as well as an example of "ugly racism" and xenophobia.
"Jason Richwine's comments and general world view are a mark against the conservative community and against all fruitful discussions that would lead to comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform," Sen Ruben Hinojosa, D-Tx and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said.
Jim DeMint, president of the Foundation, and Robert Rector, co-author of the study, wrote a piece for the Washington Post supporting the report the day of its release that said it was conducted with the best interest of the American taxpayer in mind. In it, it said that the two were in favor of immigration and understood its positive impact on economic growth, but that unlawful immigration bred a heavy, lifelong burden on citizens.
"A properly structured lawful immigration system holds the potential to drive positive economic growth and job creation. But amnesty for those here unlawfully is not necessary to capture those benefits," the piece said. "The lifetime fiscal cost (benefits received minus taxes paid) for the average unlawful immigrant after amnesty would be around $590,000. Who is going to pay that tab?"
The Heritage Foundation did not, however, support Richwine's words. It distanced itself from the comments in a statement to reporters while still supporting the study's findings.
"This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation," Heritage VP of Communications Mike Gonzalez wrote. "Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer."
Proponents of the bipartisan immigration bill said aversion to the bill did not necessarily foster discrimination, but that the national discussion should eliminate bias and personal belief from the equation.
"We're not saying that anyone who has a problem with the bill is a bigot, but the immigration debate should not resort to these kinds of tactics," Navarette said. "We should keep the discussion based on facts."