Last week, the Wall Street Journal broke an incredible report that the Biden administration was on the verge of making illegal alien family units (FMUs) “separated” under President Trump’s short-lived 2018 "Zero Tolerance" policy millionaires by paying each illegal alien $450,000 in U.S. taxpayer dollars. Specifically, the newspaper reported that the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services were on the verge of settling lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of these illegal aliens despite their illegal entry being 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.
As I noted in my October 29 piece on this issue, criticism of the financial payouts was immediate and widespread. The Journal article that broke the story even noted that career government attorneys involved in the litigation raised objections to the political leadership team, pointing out that these illegal aliens would receive more money than the families of some 9/11 victims and the families of our fallen troops.
Just six days later, President Biden appears to have poured cold water on the payments. During the November 3 press briefing, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked the president, “As you were leaving for your overseas trip, there were reports that were surfacing that your administration is planning to pay illegal immigrants who are separated from their families at the border up to $450,000 each, possibly a million dollars per family. Do you think that that might incentivize more people to come over illegally?” Biden curtly responded, “If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah. But it’s not true,” seemingly implying that Fox News originated the story. Biden reiterated that this is a “garbage report” and that the financial payments are “not going to happen”.
If Biden truly means it, this is welcome news, but what happened next is the bigger story. In response, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero quickly blasted out the following statement: “President 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 [sic] against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional governmental policy.” In its frustration, the ACLU appears to have lifted the veil on what many critics of the Biden administration have thought all year: Joe Biden is not in charge of his own administration.
An oft-used expression in Washington is that personnel is politics. The lieutenants in charge of immigration policy are not the moderates that Joe Biden presented himself as to the American people during the 2020 campaign. Congress should investigate who at the Justice Department has been leading these negotiations and who, if anyone, at the White House has visibility. They should also probe the ACLU to find out if they were truly representing these illegal aliens pro bono or if they were taking a cut of the payments as part of a scheme to enrich the supposedly "non-profit and non-partisan" organization.
It is not implausible to believe that the Justice Department could have finalized these settlements under the president’s nose if the Journal had not exposed the negotiations to the general public.