When the last immigration reform bill was released in 2007, the Heritage Foundation published a similar study that claimed it would cost taxpayers $2.6 trillion. That helped fuel conservative outrage against the proposal and ultimately it failed in Congress.
Cognizant of that, pro-immigration reform conservatives have mobilized to counter Heritage's study. Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) circulated a "pre-buttal" memo to top Republican aides on Capitol Hill last month that criticized the work of Robert Rector and the Heritage Foundation.
"The Heritage Foundation is a treasured ally in the conservative movement and a pillar of the conservative policy community," Joshua Culling, ATR's top immigration policy aide, said in a statement on Monday. "However, this study is every bit as flawed as its 2007 iteration."
"This study is designed to try to scare conservative Republicans into thinking the cost is going to be so gigantic [they can't support it]," Barbour said. "The opponents of immigration reform think ... they can try to redo the same tactics and strategies [they used six years ago]."
All of this might seem like inside baseball. But it's esoteric debates like this one that could eventually determine the fate of some 11 million people.