Fmr. Sen. Jim DeMint: $6.3 trillion immigration price tag ‘irrefutable’

Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Fmr. Sen. Jim DeMint: $6.3 trillion immigration price tag ‘irrefutable’

The Fine Print

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R – S.C.) is standing by the controversial Heritage Foundation study that put a $6.3 trillion price tag on the Senate immigration bill, saying: “There’s no doubt that these numbers are real.”

He also says he has no regrets about leaving the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation, recalling his recent years in the Senate as similar to “being on a treadmill going nowhere.”

“I’m at a place now at Heritage where I can have more impact on public policy than I could as a United States senator,” says DeMint.

As the Senate debates an immigration bill, DeMint is at the center of a dispute at Heritage. The conservative policy group released a report last week citing the $6.3 trillion cost of the bill over 50 years, which many on both sides of the aisle have rebuked as overblown. The report faced further scrutiny after it was discovered that its co-author, Jason Richwine, has previously made controversial arguments based on race.

While Richwine has since resigned from the Heritage Foundation, and the organization has distanced itself from his previous writings, DeMint is not backing away from the report’s findings.

“The towering cost of moving forward this way is something everyone should stop and think, ‘Okay, let's check the numbers out, see if they're real,’” DeMint says. “I think they're irrefutable. I have done a lot of research in my life, there's no doubt that these numbers are real.”

DeMint discounts the argument made by supporters of the legislation that there will be long-term benefit to the U.S. economy.

“Some are suggesting that just having these additional workers is going to improve the economy and help everyone…There is no way over a fifty year period that this is going to improve the economy to a point that actually creates a benefit to American taxpayers,” he says.

DeMint contends that many of the estimated 10-12 million people to whom the bill would extend a path to citizenship will rely on government services more than they contribute in taxes.

“They take out over $9 trillion, they put in around $3 [trillion], but the net is a cost to taxpayers of $6.3 [trillion],” DeMint says.

While DeMint says the Heritage Foundation is supportive of the concept of immigration reform, he characterizes the current compromise as “blanket amnesty.”

“A true immigration reform would create a lot of benefits for America…but to get those benefits we don't have to offer this blanket amnesty for those who came here unlawfully,” he says. “It’s not fair to the 4 million people all around the world waiting to come here lawfully, costs way too much, and will make problems worse.”

For more of the interview with DeMint, and to hear how this issue has strained his relationship with Sen. Marco Rubio (R – Fl.), check out this episode of The Fine Print.

ABC's Eric Wray, Betsy Klein, Alexandra Dukakis, Chris Carlson, and John Knott contributed to this episode.