EXCLUSIVE: Republicans in the House on Thursday will introduce a bill to block a reported plan by the Biden administration to pay millions of dollars to illegal immigrants separated under the Trump administration – as President Biden has sought to dismiss the reports.
Rep. Tom McClintock, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, will introduce the Illegal Immigration Payoff Prohibition Act, which amends 28 USC 2414 – which gives the attorney general the authority to enter settlement agreements.
The bill would block the attorney general from making any settlement payments to illegal immigrants that directly arise from their violation of immigration laws, including laws that criminalize illegal border crossings and that make a migrant inadmissible for attempting to enter a country illegally at a port of entry.
The bill is co-sponsored by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan and 135 other members, and it represents a coordinated effort by House Republicans to block a reported plan by the Biden administration to pay $450,000 per migrant who was separated under the Trump administration’s "zero tolerance" policy.
"Who says crime doesn’t pay? Under Biden it apparently pays very well indeed," McClintock said in a statement. "Law-abiding, hardworking Americans have seen their purchasing power decimated by Biden’s economic policies while he has surrendered our southern border. Paying illegal immigrants $450,000 apiece as an apology for Trump’s decision to enforce our immigration law adds insult to injury. Congress has the power of the purse, and that’s why we must act today to stop this outrageous plan in its tracks."
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are considering the payments of $450,000 per person to those who crossed the border illegally and were separated from family members. It is in response to a lawsuit by civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
The payments could therefore amount to close to $1 million per family and $1 billion overall, although the Journal said that many families would get smaller payouts. The New York Times, which also reported the planned payments, estimated that about 5,500 children were separated from parents at the southern border under the policy.
Biden was questioned about the reports by Fox News' Peter Doocy on Wednesday and flatly rejected them – calling them "garbage" when asked if it would incentivize further illegal immigration.
"If you guys keep sending that garbage out? Yeah, but it's not true," he said.
"$450,000 per person, is that what you’re saying?" he said. "That’s not going to happen."
But Biden’s dismissal has so far done little to end the controversy over the reports, which sparked anger from Republicans, who made comparisons with what military families and others are paid and warned that it could encourage more illegal immigration amid a continuing border crisis.
McCarthy, who recently requested a meeting with Biden over the border crisis and plans by congressional Democrats to include amnesty for illegal immigrants in the proposed reconciliation bill, said the reported proposals showed Biden’s priorities are "backwards."
"With all the challenges Americans are facing every day – including an unprecedented border crisis – providing $450,000 per person settlement payments to illegal immigrants is pure insanity," he said in a statement. "This is not only an insult to the American people, but also will worsen the border crisis and lead to a business boom for drug cartels and human traffickers, who are already exploiting Democrats’ disastrous border policies."
"Democrats lock down the economy, pay people not to work, raise your taxes, and now want to give illegal immigrants $450,000 checks paid for by American taxpayers," Jordan said. "Our bill would make sure the Attorney General can’t unilaterally make that happen."
The House legislation comes after Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., introduced an amendment Wednesday to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 that would bar payments arising from the Trump administration’s "zero tolerance" policy. The amendment was supported by more than two dozen Senate Republicans, including GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Daines also introduced the bill as a standalone measure.
Meanwhile, the ACLU shot back late Wednesday to Biden’s dismissal of the reports, saying that Biden "may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department as it carefully deliberated and considered the crimes committed against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional governmental policy."
"But if he follows through on what he said, the president is abandoning a core campaign promise to do justice for the thousands of separated families," ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in a statement. "We respectfully remind President Biden that he called these actions ‘criminal’ in a debate with then-President Trump and campaigned on remedying and rectifying the lawlessness of the Trump administration. We call on President Biden to right the wrongs of this national tragedy."
Fox News' Peter Doocy contributed to this report.