Migrants separated under the Trump administration still have no deal to receive payouts from the Biden White House, after the proposal drew sharp blowback.
‘All I can say is there’s no deal on the table and we have no timeframe necessarily,’ Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who’s representing the parents said in a conference call with reporters.
Lawyers for both the families and the government said last month they are working on settlements and hope to be finished by the end of November.
The Wall Street Journal reported in October that the administration was considering offering as much as $450,000 per child, a figure that drew sharp condemnation from Republicans.
President Biden has been back and forth on the payouts, which would typically remain private until a settlement is finalized. The Department of Justice is handling the negotiations.
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier this month that President Biden is ‘perfectly comfortable’ with cash payouts to migrant families separated at the border, but insisted the settlements won’t be as high as $450,000.
‘If it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration’s use of ‘zero tolerance’ and family separation behind us, the President is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with the individuals and families who are currently in litigation with the US government,’ she said.
Fernando Arredondo of Guatemala, hugs his daughter Alison, at Los Angeles International Airport after being separated during the Trump-era policy
David Xol-Cholom, of Guatemala hugs his son Byron at Los Angeles International Airport as they reunite after being separated for about a year and a half during the Trump administration
The ACLU tore into Biden the night before after he denied reports that his White House is planning on paying separated migrants $450,000 each or $1 million per family.
Biden was asked by a reporter whether the reported payments ‘might incentivize more people to come over illegally.’
Fox reporter Peter Doocy asks, ‘So this is a garbage report?’
Biden stood by his aggressive reaction.
‘Yeah. $450,000 per person, is that what you’re saying?’ Biden asked. ‘That’s not going to happen.’
The head of the ACLU said the 78-year-old president’s statement means he either hasn’t been ‘fully briefed’ on the matter or is ‘abandoning’ his promise to undo Donald Trump’s more strict immigration laws.
‘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 told Fox News.
A child and a migrant woman exit a United States Border Patrol bus while being released from custody upon crossing the Texas-Mexico border in search of asylum, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021
‘But if he follows through on what he said, the president is abandoning a core campaign promise to do justice for the thousands of separated families.
‘We respectfully remind President Biden that he called these actions ‘criminal’ in a debate with then-President Trump and campaigned on remedying and rectifying the lawlessness of the Trump administration. We call on President Biden to right the wrongs of this national tragedy.’
The disputed financial offerings have been heavily criticized by Republicans, who unveiled legislation on Thursday aimed at blocking the payments.
‘If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah,’ Biden retorted. ‘But it’s not true.’
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the separated families, has identified about 5,500 children separated from parents at the border during the course of the Trump-era policy.
Former President Trump’s administration enacted the policy in April 2018 and withdrew it two months later after much controversy in June.
The total potential payout could cost $1 billion or more.
The ‘zero-tolerance policy’ applied to families who illegally crossed the US-Mexico border to claim asylum. Since children could not be detained alongside their parents, the families were separated, sometimes with no way to track and reunited them later on, government investigations found.
Now, many families are released into the interior of the US and asked to appear in court at a later date. Some are deported under Title 42, the coronavirus public health policy.
Lawsuits allege that the separated children were housed in poor conditions, and sometimes suffered from malnutrition or heat exhaustion or were kept in freezing cold rooms and offered little medical care. Lawyers for the families argue the children have suffered long-lasting trauma from the anxiety of being without their parents.
They seek a range of payouts, averaging $3.4 million per family, according to the WSJ.
The Biden administration has repeatedly deemed the policy cruel and inhumane and promised to reunited families still separated.
Last month, Michelle Brane, head of the Family Reunification Task Force, said that the Biden team had only been able to reunite 52 of the over 1,000 families separated under the policy who have not yet found each other.
‘We estimate that over 1,000, somewhere between 1,000, 1,500, maybe more remain separated,’ Brane said on CBS’ 60 Minutes on Oct. 12. ‘It’s very hard to know because there’s no record.’
She added: ‘So there’s nowhere to go to find out who was separated or not. It really is case-by-case detective work.’
The task force is reportedly in the process of reuniting 200 more.
Reunited families are then given a three-year grant of parole, allowing them to live and work legally in the US for that period, but are not offered a pathway to citizenship.
Some government lawyers are outraged at the payments under discussion, which they view as excessive for people who knowingly broke the law by crossing the border. One government lawyer threatened to remove his name from the case in protest of the potential settlement offer.
One government attorney said that the payouts could amount to more than the government paid to the families of 9/11 victims. Another disputed that comparison, as the US government had not been directly responsible for the 9/11 attack. Payouts averaged $2 million, tax-free, per family, according to the paper.
A record 1.7 million families were encountered trying to enter the US illegally in the 2021 fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, up from a record 1.6 million in 2000. Over 479,000 families were encountered, along with an unusually high number of unaccompanied children – 147,000.
Meanwhile, Republicans were quick to condemn the report.
‘I just about fell out of my chair when I read this. For the sake of our country, I hope this reporting is in error. This would be an OUTRAGE,’ Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
‘UNACCEPTABLE Report says Biden admin considering payments of 450k per person 2ppl who crossed the border ILLEGALLY Those are taxpayers dollars We should not be paying anything to ppl who break our laws,’ Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote on Twitter.
‘Joe Biden wants to raise your taxes, but give $450,000 to illegal immigrants. Biden is putting America last,’ said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.
‘Under @POTUS @JoeBiden: Pay more for #gasoline, #groceries, home heating, & everyday living necessities,’ Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, wrote on Twitter.
‘Joe Biden gave Americans a $1300 check but wants to give illegal immigrants $450,000, which is more than the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Amidst rising inflation, this is how he wants to spend your money. Priorities,’ Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., wrote on Twitter.