On October 28, the Wall Street Journal broke a stunning report that the Biden administration is seriously considering paying $450,000 per illegal alien who was part of a “separated” family unit (FMU) during President Trump’s short-lived 2018 "Zero Tolerance" policy. Government sources told the paper that most eligible FMUs consist of an adult and a child, which would make those payouts just under $1 million, while larger FMUs would get nearly $1.5 million or more. The sources say that the total bill for U.S. taxpayers is expected to exceed $1 billion.
By way of background, illegal entry is both a civil offense under section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and a criminal offense under section 275(a) of the INA. An alien’s first illegal entry offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and up to six months’ imprisonment, or both. Repeat illegal reentry is a felony, punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison, or both.
As Andrew Arthur explains in a May 6 post, “family separation” is a novel concept because, before 2011, more than 90 percent of illegal entrants were single adult males. The surge of FMUs began showing up at the southern border shortly after U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled in August 2015 that the Flores settlement agreement, which required the government to release unaccompanied alien minors from DHS custody within 20 days, also applies to accompanied alien minors. In response, the Obama administration decided to avoid “family separation” by ignoring the mandatory detention requirement for the adults under section 235(b) of the INA and also releasing the adult parent or guardian who unlawfully brought the alien child to the border.
In an effort to stop the nearly 700 percent increase in FMUs from March 2017 (1,126) to March 2018 (8,875), then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued his April 6, 2018, memorandum entitled, “Zero-Tolerance for Offenses Under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)” that directed federal prosecutors along the southern border to prosecute all aliens who entered illegally under section 275(a) of the INA. As Andrew Arthur explained in his post, the alien adults were transferred from DHS to U.S. Marshals Service custody for prosecution, while the alien children (not subject to prosecution for illegal entry) were transferred from DHS custody to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Trump administration poorly implemented this policy, fueling the media and public outcry over “family separation”. On June 20, 2018, President Trump officially ended “Zero Tolerance” through Executive Order 13841, "Affording Congress an Opportunity To Address Family Separation".
Shortly after his inauguration, President Biden issued the EO "Establishing an Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families", declaring that the new “administration condemns the human tragedy that occurred when our immigration laws were used to intentionally separate children from their parents or legal guardians . . . including through the use of the Zero-Tolerance Policy.” On May 3, 2021, CBS News reported that the Biden administration had begun bringing back to the United States the previously deported parents and legal guardians who chose to leave behind the alien minors. That remarkable step was only the beginning; Andrew Arthur explained in a post last month that Biden’s government funding bill takes money away from CBP and ICE agents in order to provide “shelter, temporary housing, subsistence expenses, transportation, medical care, access to legal services, and such other assistance or relief for separated families that the Secretary of Homeland Security determines necessary to accomplish reunification.”
Critics of the Biden administration’s proposed financial payout, including career government attorneys, have noted that these illegal aliens would receive more money than the families of some 9/11 victims and the families of our fallen troops. In nine months, the Biden administration has essentially opened the southern border to a record level of illegal immigration, refused to enforce immigration law in the interior, and now is reportedly on the verge of making some illegal aliens wealthy at taxpayer expense. Is there any doubt how foreign nationals around the world will respond?