Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday blasted President Biden’s reported plan to make $450,000 payments to illegal immigrants separated under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy.
“The American people are hurting,” Mr. McConnell said. “Inflation just hit another 30-year record high. Families are paying skyrocketing prices for everyday needs. The murder rate across our country just recorded its biggest jump ever.”
“But here’s what the Biden administration is focused on: Handing out six-figure and seven-figure payments to illegal immigrants,” he said.
The Kentucky Republican’s remarks on the Senate floor added to the chorus of Republican outrage after the Wall Street Journal reported details of the plan last week.
The payments, according to the Journal, are designed to compensate those parents and children separated at the border for the trauma suffered.
During the zero-tolerance policy under the Trump administration, children of adults who crossed the border illegally were placed under the care of the U.S. government while their parents faced prosecution.
An inspector general investigation found that the Trump administration failed in many cases to reunite the families once the parents were released. Some remain separated to this day.
The American Civil Liberties Union said more than 5,000 children were separated from their parents under the policy. More than 900 families have filed lawsuits against various U.S. government agencies after being separated.
Under the plan, families could stand to be compensated up to $1million total, potentially costing the U.S. more than $1 billion.
Republicans have condemned the administration.
Several House Republicans led by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state and Gregory Murphy of North Carolina, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Department of Justice Attorney General Merrick Garland outlining their concerns.
“We are extremely alarmed that this misguided policy shows the administration wants to treat illegal immigrants better than law-abiding citizens who create families and contribute to our economy through hard, legal work,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are the country of the strong and the brave, not the country of exploitation and shortcuts.”
Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, pledged to block the payments by introducing an amendment to the upcoming Senate version of the annual defense policy bill.
Mr. McConnell on Monday echoed his fellow Republicans’ sentiments.
“American families are having to anxiously budget for gas and groceries, but President Biden wants to literally make millionaires out of people who have violated federal law,” he said.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.