With such a big number projected out over such a long period, Rector and Richwine’s report was ripe for criticism. It piggybacked off a 2007 Heritage report estimating that another “amnesty” bill would cost taxpayers $2.7 trillion. That report, oft-cited by Republicans, helped kill immigration reform then.
The two Heritage Foundation reports, and the fate of bills like the DREAM Act, expose a fallacy espoused by Rubio, who has suggested that immigration reform faces as much of a threat from the political left as from the right.
It’s true that some liberals and Democrats want to scuttle immigration reform for political gain. Many would prefer the current situation, in which Hispanic voters continue to tilt Democrat and blame Republicans for blocking immigration reform.
But in light of the Heritage’s public-relations fiasco, Democrats need to do very little as conservatives blow themselves up when it comes to Hispanic voters.
Not all conservatives or immigration hardliners share the views espoused by Richwine. Many bristle at liberals itching to call them all racists and nativist know-nothings.
The conservative American Action Network, a backer of immigration reform, was ready to combat Heritage even before the revelation of Richwine’s views became public. The network sponsored Web ads bashing the “flawed” and “misleading study” whenever someone in Washington, D.C., Googled “Heritage Foundation Report” or some variant.
Heritage critics also pointed out that it only studied the cost of the pathway to citizenship in its analysis of the Senate bill, not the benefits of attracting more high-skilled and highly educated immigrants who would pay more into the system than take out.
Little of it mattered, in a political sense, by Wednesday.
That’s when the Washington Post dug up Richwine’s thesis. From that point on, critics needed only to talk about prejudice to undermine the report.
Soon, Richwine’s comments like these at a 2008 immigration forum came to light:
“You have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks,” he said. “These are real differences, and they’re not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.”
If opponents of immigration reform want to win the debate, they should ignore Richwine’s advice.
But should we all ignore the entire Heritage Foundation study?