The Path to Citizenship Is Paved With New Taxes

Homeland Security secretary says path to legalization would largely pay for itself.

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Immigration reform, including a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, doesn't have to come with a big price tag, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said this morning. Why? Because the path to legalization can be paved with fees, fines and taxes.

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, and bringing them "out of the shadows" will require registration, getting their biometric information and running background checks on them, Napolitano said. Speaking to a press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Napolitano said that as her department has looked at the potential cost "in terms of advising the White House, there are ways to deal with" the cost of that process "without getting a big number that [the Congressional Budget Office] would have to score."

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

"They'll need to pay a fee, they'll need to pay a fine—they need to get right with the law. They did break the law," she said. "So some of this will be fee based." She also cited port inspector fees as another potential revenue stream.

It all raises the question—only half facetiously—of how long before people on the right start complaining that any immigration reform bill is a giant tax hike.

Of course, as the Center for American Progress reported last week, the newly legalized residents of this country will produce a big tax windfall—as much as $184 billion between federal and state taxes—as they enter the economy on a solid basis.

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