President Biden refuted recent reports that his administration is currently negotiating to settle legal suits by cutting checks of nearly half a million dollars per illegal immigrant who were separated at the southern border under the Trump administration, calling the report “garbage” and the payout is “not going to happen.”
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Biden if the prospects of the payments would incentivize even more illegals to try to cross into the U.S.
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out? Yeah. But it’s not true,” Biden fired back in response.
“So this is a garbage report?” Doocy pressed Biden.
“Yeah. $450,000 per person — is that what you’re saying?” Biden replied. “That’s not gonna happen.”
The Wall Street Journal last week first reported that the Biden administration “are considering payments that could amount to close to $1 million a family” for migrants separated and detained at the southern border under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” 2018 policy. Officials at the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are negotiating settlements of around $450,000 a person to resolve ongoing lawsuits filed on behalf of the families.
Most of the families separated at the border were one parent and one child, meaning based on the compensation laid out, the adult and child within the same family are eligible for a combined payout of $900,000. The total amount payout could reach close to $1 billion to settle lawsuits. Nearly 940 claims have so far been filed, with many of them being civil claims seeking monetary damages for harm or loss.
Biden administration is looking to settle to avoid trials that could be public and even costly than the settlements due to some of the lawsuits alleging emotional distress. According to the suits, lawyers are alleging that some migrant children experienced a range of “last mental-health problems” such as trauma during the months separated from their parents. The trauma the children experienced under the claim includes “anxiety, a fear of strangers and nightmares” when placed in child-welfare shelters under the HHS.
Following the president’s remark, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) slammed Biden’s claim and his lack of knowledge from his administration regarding the ongoing negotiating.
“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 against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional governmental policy,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement.
The ACLU, who represent the separated families in several federal lawsuits, also warned that if Biden abandons his “core campaign promise to do justice for the thousands of separated families,” they will seek “true restitution” in court.
During the 2020 Election, Biden was an outspoken critic of the Zero Tolerance policy, implemented under the former Attorney General Jeff Session in May 2018. Former President Donald Trump quickly ended the policy two months after its implementation through an executive order amid intense bipartisan blowback
Under the policy, border agents separated thousands of children from their parents after crossing the border illegally. Sessions introduced the policy in April 2018 where it required the five U.S. attorneys along the southern border to prosecute cases of eligible adult migrant referred to them by the DHS. Meanwhile, children were placed in child migrant detention facilities under HHS.
According to the Justice Department Inspector General investigation report released earlier this year, the policy lacked proper planning and a system to track and later reunite the 3,000 families separated quickly.
For months, lawyers for migrant families have been meeting with the Biden administration as part of “a nationwide effort” to settle federal lawsuits and administrative tort claims over the separations. The ACLU is seeking a range of payouts, with the average demand being roughly $3.4 million per family. Talks in recent months between officials from the Biden administration and lawyers representing the migrant families. There are also settlement talks ongoing regarding a separate lawsuit, known as Ms. L vs. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with the ACLU is seeking compensation and mental-health and other services, as well as with a permanent legal status.
The reports have prompted widespread backlash from Republicans, many criticizing the generous payout, and eleven Senators from the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Biden urging him to reject the possible plan for potential payments to migrant families.