Republicans moved this week to block $450,000 payments to illegal immigrants who were part of family separations during the Trump administration, but they saw their first attempt quashed by Senate Democrats.
The payments are being pondered by President Biden’s task force assigned to help reunify and compensate families snared by the Trump zero-tolerance border policy, which led to thousands of family separations.
Some migrants would be in line to collect $450,000 in federal money, and the total bill could top $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the negotiations.
Sen. Jim Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, proposed an amendment to cancel the payments during debate on a human trafficking bill in the Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, saying if the government does follow through, it will spark an even bigger surge of illegal immigration.
“There is no question that this will be the news in Central America — that if you go now, you’re going to get $450,000 if you cross,” he said.
But Democrats on the committee sank the proposal, with Chairman Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat, saying Mr. Lankford’s idea would rescind Mr. Biden’s task force, leaving families without answers.
“No child should be forced to experience the trauma of needless separation from their parents,” Mr. Peters said.
Mr. Lankford’s proposal failed on a party-line 7-7 vote. It would have needed a majority to advance.
The fight is likely to be only the opening salvo.
GOP senators have announced they will try to add an amendment to the upcoming defense policy bill that would block the payments. That defense bill is one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation Congress deals with each year.
House Republicans also unveiled their bill, the Illegal Immigration Payoff Prohibition Act. It is sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock and is being co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican; Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan..