Senate Republicans, led by Daines, move to block reported $450k payments to illegal immigrants

Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., on Wednesday moved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, which would bar a reported plan by the Biden administration to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to illegal immigrants who were separated at the border – just as President Biden strongly denied the report.

The amendment would prohibit cash settlements resulting from the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy — which in some cases led to children and their parents or guardians being separated.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are considering payments of $450,000 to those who crossed the border illegally and were separated from family members. It is in response to a lawsuit by civil rights groups. 

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.

The reports led to outrage by Republicans, who have said the proposal would reward illegal behavior and incentivize more of it, with Daines calling it a “gut punch” to the American taxpayer.

“Biden’s open border policies have reached a new crazy level. Montana families are struggling with inflation and skyrocketing costs on everything from gas to groceries because of Biden’s wasteful spending policies, and now the President wants to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to illegal immigrants,” he said in a statement. “Because of Biden, our southern border has been taken over by Mexican cartels and this effort will only continue to incentivize illegal immigration making it worse.”

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.

“Giving out potentially billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to people who broke federal law to enter the country is outrageous and an insult to the American people,” he said. ” I am proud to support this amendment to ensure the Biden Administration doesn’t do this.”

However, late Wednesday Biden was questioned about the reports by Fox News 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 of the report.

“$450,000 per person, is that what you’re saying?” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”