McConnell blasts potential payments to separated migrant families

McConnell blasts potential payments to separated migrant families
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive issues that will define the months until the midterms  Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday criticized President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to provide update Monday on US response to omicron variant Restless progressives eye 2024 Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE's potential plan to pay settlements to migrant families separated at the border during the Trump administration.

"Honestly, this absurd idea feels like a satirical policy proposal that Republicans would have invented to make a parody out of the radical left. Oh, and the next thing you know, they’ll be sending out million-dollar checks to illegal immigrants," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Eleven Republican senators also wrote a letter to the president on Monday asking him to reject the potential payouts.


"Rewarding illegal immigration with financial payments runs counter to our laws and would only serve to encourage more lawlessness at our border," Iowa Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Iowa Democrat drops bid to challenge Grassley after death of nephew Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case MORE and 10 other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal. "To that end, I ask that your administration refuse to issue any settlement payments for aliens who broke our laws."

The payments would amount to roughly $450,000 per person, or close to $1 million per family, to settle lawsuits filed by parents and children who allege that the government's actions caused them lasting psychological trauma. The actual payments could change and would likely be smaller based on each family's circumstances, the Journal reported. 

Families that were separated have filed more than 900 claims thus far, and officials are unsure of how many others might come forward or prove that they too could be eligible for the settlement payments, the Journal reported. 

Some Democrats have also voiced concerns about the proposed settlement payments. 

“I do have concerns. It’s a lot of families, and a lot of money,” Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark KellyMark KellyFive Senate Democrats reportedly opposed to Biden banking nominee Biden's pick for Arizona's US Attorney confirmed by Senate Cook Political Report shifts three Senate races toward Republicans MORE said, according to the newspaper.

In total, the plan could cost $1 billion or more. However, taking the cases to trial could prove to be a more uncertain and more expensive path, as child psychologists and other experts would likely be called upon to assess the cost of what could amount to decades of therapy for each child.

“These can be extremely expensive cases. It’s not just the difficulty in estimating the emotional trauma and what that means, it’s the idea that something would be carried over so many years,” Adam Zimmerman, former deputy special master of the 9/11 victim compensation fund, told to the Journal.

In 2018, thousands of children were separated from their families by immigration agents as people traveled to the U.S. seeking asylum and illegally crossed the border from Mexico during the Trump administration’s zero tolerance enforcement policy.

Some families were broken up by force with no indication of how they would later reunite. Children involved experienced heat exhaustion and malnutrition. Others were put in freezing rooms and were not given proper medical attention, the Journal noted.