Haitian illegal immigrants involved in this fall’s Border Patrol “whipping” hoax in Del Rio, Texas, are suing the Biden administration, with the help of anti-borders groups. If all goes according to plan, all three of these parties — the illegal immigrants, the administration and the anti-borders groups — will win.

It’s clear what the former illegal immigrants themselves — now back in Haiti — want: a free flight to the United States so they can apply for asylum. As a practical matter, that would mean they’d be able to live here forever, whatever the eventual outcome of their asylum cases.

The Biden administration likewise has a clear agenda. It has shown over the past year a bedrock belief in the principle of unlimited immigration and only resorted to deporting a small share of the Haitians under that bridge in Texas because it feared the political fallout of the news pictures. So it’s unlikely to put up much of a defense in this case, and if it were to “lose,” it would be able to shift responsibility for the inevitable surge in Haitian arrivals by saying its hands were tied by the courts.

But the motives of the third set of actors in this game — the non-profit legal groups actually filing the lawsuit — are a mix of profit and policy. The overriding goal, of course, is to open the borders. The lead anti-borders group involved, the Innovation Law Lab, actually sells shirts with images entitled “Migration is Sacred” and “Unbuild The Wall.”

United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande.
United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande.
AFP via Getty Images / Paul Ratje

Cost of doing business

Another, the Justice Action Center, includes on its board an activist who describes herself on Twitter as an “Abolitionist” — i.e., for abolishing immigration controls. The group was founded by longtime anti-borders crusader Karen Tumlin, who led the successful lawfare campaign against Arizona’s modest attempt during the Obama administration to deter illegal immigration.

That’s why the lawsuit is demanding a variety of orders from the court, the net effect of which would be to open the borders to any and all Haitians who want to move here. That the Haitians weren’t whipped, and the Border Patrol agents were simply holding reins of horses to prevent them from illegally crossing the border? That doesn’t matter — one photograph is worth completely upending our immigration policies.

A Customs and Border Control agent patrols on the US side of a razor-wire-covered border wall on a dirt road.
A Customs and Border Control agent patrols on the US side of a razor-wire-covered border wall.
AP / Charlie Riedel

But lawyers cost money, and even those burning with anti-American zeal have bills to pay. How to fund this lawsuit and others like it? Sure, there are left-wing foundations and their corporate fellow-travelers who donate to support this kind of work. But how much better would it be for the American taxpayer to help pay for his own dispossession?

That’s why the demands in this Haitian lawsuit include “costs of suit and reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses” as well as “such further relief as the Court deems just, equitable, and proper.”

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback uses the reins as he tries to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande.
A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback uses the reins as he tries to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande.
AFP via Getty Images / Paul Ratje

In personal-injury lawsuits, contingency fees are generally one-third of the amount awarded. This is a somewhat different case, and no amounts are mentioned in the complaint, but the recent revelation that President Biden’s Justice Department was in settlement talks to give $450,000 per illegal immigrant involved in the “zero-tolerance” separations can give some context.

The settlement talks, since abandoned because of the publicity, would have cost a total of at least $1 billion; assuming the one-third arrangement applied, that would have meant the anti-borders lawyers in that case raiding the US Treasury for $333 million in taxpayer funds.

Numbers game

Don’t imagine that these “nonprofit” groups are above such considerations. The Innovation Law Lab, for instance, sells a subscription product to help other anti-borders crusaders better manage lawsuits, and one of the selling points of the product is that it “increases profits.” The lab’s 2020 tax return reports more than $400,000 in “contracted services” over the past several years — this could include lawyers’ fees and a percentage of legal settlements.

Migrants, many from Haiti, are seen at an encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge near the Rio Grande.
Migrants are seen at an encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge near the Rio Grande.
AP / Julio Cortez

But we don’t know the real amounts, and that’s a problem. The anti-borders legal groups in this case, and in all others like it, should be required to disclose what percentage, if any, of a settlement they would get under the retention agreement with their clients. They also should be required to disclose annually how much in legal fees they have received from lawsuits against the government.

In any normal situation, this lawsuit would be laughed out of court, but that didn’t stop the Biden administration from offering $450,000 to each plaintiff in a similarly meritless case. Whatever happens in this case, American taxpayers should at least know how much they’re having to pay to see their borders subverted.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. 

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