Historians may someday look upon 2021 as the year that the rhetoric and media puffery of Joe Biden and his administration crashed into reality. That is the place where real-world consequences happen as a result of White House policies. People lose their life savings or even their lives. Families are destroyed, and people live with hardship. That is one reason why the presidency was once a job reserved for only the most serious and wise leaders.
Today we have bad, destructive policies coming from the current occupant of the White House almost daily. Given that, it is no small achievement that Mr. Biden’s recent proposal of giving immigrant families separated during the Trump administration up to $450,000 per person in compensation may be his worst idea yet.
Faced with widespread backlash to the idea, Mr. Biden’s Justice Department attempted damage control by saying the $450,000 figure was too high. The damage is already done, however. The idea that we should pay any amount to those who break our laws is a bridge too far for most Americans.
Given this administration’s history, this move appears to be yet another attempt by the Left to virtue-signal its contempt for Donald Trump and everything he did as president. However, given Mr. Biden’s sinking poll numbers, it may be little more than a trial balloon to re-energize his base. For the rest of the country, this balloon is going down like the Hindenburg.
While the notion of lottery-sized payouts to people who illegally entered the country was met with derision by cable news hosts and Republican members of Congress, opposition to it is bolstered by some disturbing numbers. American citizens who are falsely convicted of crimes and spent time in prison are eligible for compensation of $50,000, one-ninth of the payment being considered for foreign nationals who broke the law. Family members of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty receive an average payment of $390,000 for their loss. As Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a wounded veteran who lost his eye in combat, pointed out, the next of kin of a service member killed in action gets an insurance payment of only $400,000.
Add to those numbers the reality that Americans live with myriad problems, including hyperinflation, skyrocketing gas prices and supply chain-induced product shortages. In the parlance of Washington-speak, cash-for-illegals is “bad optics” any way you look at it.
This idea would also trigger a flurry of legal challenges that could tie it up in court for years if enacted. The White House narrative is that the payments are meant to settle lawsuits filed against federal agencies by affected parents and children claiming psychological trauma due to their separation. In question, however, is whether these foreign nationals have the right to even file such lawsuits.
If the people in question gave themselves up to border patrol agents and were not released or released under supervision, they have never entered the country in the legal sense, any more than a citizen of another country waiting at customs does so in an American airport. Think Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal. Not having entered, they lack the constitutional rights that protect people in America.
The Supreme Court has held many times that aliens trying to enter the country only have the due process rights Congress may give them. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, our immigration law, Congress does not provide illegals with the right to be together with their families in the United States, so they have no further such right in the Constitution’s Due Process Clause.
The government lawyers pursuing Mr. Biden’s agenda will go all-out to push this idea through. Still, there will be considerable opposition based on the laws and precedents going against them.
Another ugly mark on this idea is the wretched incentive it gives for other foreign nationals to break our laws. In a shameless attempt to pander to his party’s anti-borders base during last year’s Democratic primary debate, candidate Biden recklessly encouraged the rest of the world to “surge the border” if he became president.
The result was complete chaos at the border, including the Haitian migrant fiasco in Del Rio, Texas and word of an even larger group marching north through Mexico. By paying out what to an impoverished Central American must seem like all the money in the world, Mr. Biden would be super-charging the magnet drawing would-be asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle and virtually every other underdeveloped country on the planet.
This is just a bad idea. Bad for America and its citizens. Those who see how bad it is need to put it in the ashbin of history by making their voices heard.
• Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.