Feds are considering how much to pay illegal immigrants
Members of Congress who die in office see their families usually receive a year’s stipend, currently $174,000, as compensation for survivors.
Families of US service members who die on active duty receive a death bonus of $100,000.
And Japanese Americans, who were forced from their homes and into concentration camps for more than two years during World War II, will eventually raise $20,000, four decades later. This equates to about $46,000 in today’s dollars.
Lawmakers and legal experts are looking to these kinds of payments now, as the Biden administration considers cutting $450,000 — nearly 10 times the inflation-adjusted rate paid to detainees — to compensate undocumented immigrants who suffered emotional trauma when they were apprehended in the ex-president. Donald Trump’s absolutist policy on borders.
One legal expert described the $450,000 checks as “extremely generous” compared to other payments allowed by the courts.
But finding out exactly the right comparison is fraught with complications.
Republican Senator James Lankford, during a Senate committee meeting earlier this month, drew comparisons with soldiers dying on duty, saying Americans are angry at the idea that illegal immigrants will get more than four times that amount.
However, families of soldiers and sailors killed in service receive other benefits, such as lifelong access to the military health care system. And in the strange world of settlements and payments, death is usually compensated for less than serious injury.
Guy Tidmarsh, Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, suggested the internment in World War II as a possible framework for comparison. Tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent, as well as some Japanese immigrants, were ordered to leave their homes in the American West and forced to live in what amounted to internment camps from 1942 until the end of 1944.
The Supreme Court at the time ruled the policy of exclusion is constitutional, but it has since come to be regarded as a preeminent example of unchecked government power and racial targeting.
Paying half a million dollars “seems too high” for the regular immigrant case, Mr. Tidmarsh said, but may be appropriate for some extreme cases.
“There is no right number. So we are talking about picking a number that seems appropriate.” “If I say $450,000 is appropriate and I have to say $200,000 is appropriate, none of us are wrong.”
“We’re talking about emotional damage and these are the hardest and most difficult things to put an accurate number on,” he added.
Another point of comparison is sending the wrong person to prison. This often involves family separation, as well as the severe disenfranchisement that comes with being behind bars.
Federal law sets a maximum annual payment of $50,000 in those cases, with the amount doubled for the time people on death row await. States have different policies, from California’s $140 per day restitution to the District of Columbia’s $200,000 restitution per year.
Charles Silver, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he wasn’t sure what the correct legal comparison was.
“But I can say that $450,000 per person is very generous compared to a lot of damages,” he said in an email.
He said that even plaintiffs’ attorneys underestimate the pain and suffer psychological losses or injuries if they do not have concurrent economic losses or physical injuries.
Payments are discretionary. Mr. Tadamrush said federal law would likely protect the government from filing a civil lawsuit.
“It’s a political decision,” he said. This administration does not agree with the policy of the previous administration. One way to point out is to compensate the people who were victims of that policy.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is leading negotiations on behalf of immigrants, did not respond to a request for comment.
The family separation came from then-President Trump’s tough approach to illegal border crossing by families, who were exploiting a loophole that allowed many adults who brought their children to be arrested and released into the communities.
Under a zero-tolerance policy, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice decided to prosecute the parents for illegal entry, which is a misdemeanor. This meant imprisoning them—and since there were no family facilities in federal prisons, the children were separated and placed in government-run shelters.
But the government lacked the ability to reunite families after the parents were released from prison, and in many cases the fathers were deported without their children.
The government is still trying to reunite some families, and the Biden administration has announced plans to readmit deported parents to give them a new chance to seek asylum or file a case to be allowed to stay.
Payment negotiations were revealed by the Wall Street Journal, which said $450,000 could be a typical payment but the exact price will vary depending on circumstances.
When President Biden was first asked about it, he called the report “nonsense.”
Later, after being told likely that the negotiations were in fact real, he said the payments were justified, but said he didn’t want to pay $450,000.
“If in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the previous administration, you were going across the border, legal or illegal, and lost your child — you lost your child, he’s gone — then you deserve some kind of compensation, whatever the circumstances.”
In fact, in most circumstances, the children were reconnected or the parents, who had already been deported, chose to leave them in the United States for a chance at a better life for which the parents jumped in the first place.
According to an Inspector General’s analysis last year, only about 20% of parents wanted to send children to their home countries after the incident. But there were a few cases where at the time of deportation parents wanted their children back with them and were refused, and several hundred cases where the parents’ wishes were not clearly defined by Homeland Security.
The idea of paying is bad with most Americans.
A survey conducted by Trafalgar Group for the conservative group “Convention of States Action” found that two-thirds opposed the idea. Even among opposition Democrats it outnumbered supporters, while Republican voters found the plan too difficult to swallow, with 85% “strongly” against it.
And the decision to make payments as an apology for the actions of a previous administration could set a new precedent for future presidents.
It’s easy to imagine a Republican president eager to pay taxpayers who sued because they felt they were being targeted by the IRS.
Republicans are moving on Capitol Hill to try to block the Biden payments.
Mr Lankford tried to include an amendment to a bill in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week, but Democrats defeated his efforts, saying his proposal would also shut down the committee Biden set up to reunite some of the still-separated families.
“No child should be forced to experience the trauma of unnecessary separation from their parents,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, who led the opposition to Mr Lankford’s proposal.
Peters said Biden’s staff has already reunited 50 families.
Republican senators said they will make another attempt to block the payments as part of the upcoming debate on the annual defense policy bill.