A group of Republican senators wants President Joe Biden to drop his administration’s reported plan to pay more than $1 billion to illegal immigrants whose families were separated by federal immigration authorities under then-President Donald Trump.
The payments would be made by the federal government to settle litigation filed on behalf of hundreds of such illegal immigrants by the American Civil Liberties Union, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the proposal.
The proposed payments could be as high as $450,000 per individual, meaning a family of four could receive up to $1.8 million from U.S. taxpayers. Most of the affected families are reportedly made up of one adult and one child. Officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are involved in the legal negotiations.
The proposal has sparked a growing wave of protests in Congress and elsewhere, including from Republican Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and John Kennedy (R-La.), along with nine of their Senate GOP colleagues. who wrote a Nov. 1 letter to Biden.
“The government is now seeking to financially reward aliens who broke our laws. The previous administration already took action to ensure that DHS could maintain custody of family units apprehended along the border and charged with criminal improper entry, rather than separate the family and transfer the parents to criminal detention,” reads the letter, which was made public on Nov. 2.
“The government also already signed a settlement agreement in 2018 to address concerns about family separation. Yet the new agreement that DHS is considering would have the government pay out potentially more than $1 billion to illegal immigrants based on allegations that DHS intentionally caused them emotional harm.
“However, these illegal immigrants disregarded our immigration processes, cut in front of those seeking to legally enter our nation, and put children at risk of great personal injury or death by placing them in the hands of abusive smugglers.
“Not only would these settlements be breathtakingly unjust and unwise, but they reinforce the conditions that make it easy for the cartels to recruit more people to undertake the treacherous journey to our southwest border, and serve only to encourage more illegal immigration.”
Also signing the letter with Hawley and Kennedy were Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is the ranking GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.); John Cornyn (R-Texas); Ted Cruz (R-Texas); Michael Lee (R-Utah); Ben Sasse (R-Neb.); Thom Tillis (R-N.C.); Tom Cotton (R-Ark.); and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
Not among the signers is Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. He told The Epoch Times on Nov. 3 that he supports “reunifying families who were wrongly separated and following due process to right any harm that was caused, but I do not support the administration’s reported proposal to direct federal bureaucrats to make lump sum payments of $450,000.”
“Americans are a kind and generous people who welcome a diverse array of immigrants from around the world,” the letter reads. “Our nation has been made stronger by the generations of legal immigrants that have contributed to our country and achieved the American Dream. But rewarding illegal immigration with financial payments runs counter to our laws and would only serve to encourage more illegal immigration.”
A White House spokesman referred a request for comment to the DOJ, which didn’t immediately respond.
The senators crafted the letter as the Biden administration continues to maintain what amounts to an open border with Mexico, as a record numbers of illegal immigrants cross into the United States in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Biden reversed Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that required border crossers to return south of the border until their applications for entry could be processed by federal immigration authorities. Under Biden, hundreds of thousands of such illegal entrants have been transported, many unannounced and under the cover of darkness by the federal government to points across the interior of the country.
Congressional Democrats have twice been turned back by the Senate Parliamentarian in their efforts to include new immigration laws that would effectively codify the changes Biden has made since taking office in January.
The Parliamentarian ruled the changes couldn’t be included in the President’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better reconciliation spending plan because they aren’t primarily budget measures. That bill only needs 50 votes (along with the vice president’s tie-breaking vote) to be approved. Otherwise, the changes to immigration law would need 60 votes.
Earlier this week, the Democrats announced that they’re making a third attempt at including the immigration law changes with a “Plan C.” As The Epoch Times reported earlier this week, the Democrats’ new plan would tweak the law to allow illegal immigrants who came into the country after 1972 and before 2010 to be eligible for amnesty.
The power to award such amnesty to illegal immigrants who have become de facto residents is vested in Congress, but Congress hasn’t moved up the date to allow illegal immigrants to be eligible for a pathway to citizenship since President Richard Nixon was in the Oval Office in 1972.