At what cost?

Senators have been inundated with calls, letters and e-mails from constituents vehemently opposed to President Bush's flawed immigration bill.

But as evidenced by Tuesday's 64-35 roll call vote to resume debate on the bill, a majority in the Senate still has not gotten the message.

Georgia's senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, have rightly gauged the wishes of their state's citizens. So has South Carolina's Jim DeMint. All of them voted against resurrecting debate on this bill.

South Carolina senior senator Lindsey Graham, however, voted for it - and by doing so has repudiated the will of his Republican constituents.

If Graham can be drenched by waves of criticism and still not divorce himself from this immigration bill, what else could possibly get his attention? Flashing neon signs? Billboards? Skywriting? After all, there's no point in being subtle. Few things these days lack more subtlety than the nationwide mandate to scrap this wrongheaded immigration plan and engage in genuine, commonsense reform based on enforcing the laws we have.

What misguided senators should realize is the true scope of financial ruin that will come with the passage of this bill. The Heritage Foundation has conducted exhaustive research on what Americans can expect with Bush's so-called immigration reform, and the findings are positively chilling.

First, consider that low-skilled immigrants are expected to take in an average of $3 in government services and benefits for every $1 they would pay in taxes. That adds up to a net $89 billion burden to U.S. taxpayers every year.

Then take into account that the average low-skilled immigrant family gets $10,500 a year in means-tested welfare. Over a lifetime, that's about a half-million dollars. Per family.

And let's not split hairs here. The immigration bill in question clearly allows for amnesty. Bill supporters say it isn't amnesty in the purest sense of the word because it requires illegals to pay a fine and admit wrongdoing to obtain temporary legal status.

But what possible incentive would illegals have to get this status? They're already in this country, and apparently had no compunctions about breaking the law to get here. They already have what they wanted, and they don't mind being squatters. Any government hoop they would have to jump through to get any level of legal status likely would be viewed as a needless hassle.

So consider this calculation: Heritage projects that, when recipients reach retirement age, taxpayers' cost of amnesty alone will be $2.6 trillion. To put that in perspective, compare that number to $2.8 trillion - that's the total spending listed in President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget.

The illegal immigration problem is more than a matter of people coming across the border and taking our jobs. This is about financial sanity. And the Senate's current ill-aimed attempt at badly needed immigration reform is far from it.

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