- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2021

More than two dozen Republican senators, including party leader Mitch McConnell, signed onto a bill Thursday that would block the Biden administration from making settlement payments to illegal immigrants who saw their families separated during the Trump administration.

Sen. Thom Tillis, the North Carolina Republican leading the legislation, said reports of $450,000 payments to illegal immigrants were “an insult to all hardworking Americans” who would foot the bill.

“We are seeing the most illegal immigration this year alone than ever recorded, and now President Biden wants to give illegal immigrants a payout, further rewarding lawlessness and chaos,” he said.

While not the first bill, it is the highest-powered version, with Senate Republicans’ top leadership on board. Republicans had hoped to attach language blocking the payments to other pieces of legislation, such as the defense policy bill now being debated on the Senate floor, but those efforts have faltered.

The Biden administration is negotiating with lawyers for thousands of illegal immigrants snared by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy. Under that policy, parents who jumped the border with their children in tow were prosecuted for illegal entry, a misdemeanor.



Before zero tolerance, they would have been caught and quickly ousted. But the Trump administration was seeking a stronger deterrent to the caravans of families surging north

There are no family detention facilities in federal prisons, so when the parents were prosecuted their children were removed from their custody and placed into government-run shelters.

Usually the parents were released after several days, sentenced to time served. But the Trump administration had no system in place to reunite most of the parents with their children.

The settlement payments — in the neighborhood of $450,000 per migrant, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the negotiations — would be the Biden administration’s attempt to compensate the families.

Mr. Biden first denied the payments then later said he supported them, but not at the $450,000 level.

Republicans’ new bill would block any federal payments to migrants who saw family separations because of their own illegal entry and prosecution.

Backers span the ideological reach of the Senate Republican Conference, from Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine to Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

House Republicans have similar legislation, backed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

But the nature of the Senate — and the current 50-50 split in seats between the party caucuses — means the Republicans in that chamber have more leverage to force action on the measure.

Polling suggests the GOP lawmakers are supported by a significant majority of voters.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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