The White House backpedaled Thursday on President Joe Biden’s doubts about potential payouts of $450,000 per person for immigrant families separated at the southern border as part of the Trump-era zero-tolerance policy.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, clarified that position by saying on Thursday that the president was “perfectly comfortable” compensating affected families — just not at a rate of $450,000 apiece.
“If it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration’s use of zero tolerance and family separation behind us,” she told reporters during a briefing, “the president is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with the individuals and families currently in litigation with the federal government.”
Jean-Pierre added that the Justice Department had communicated to those involved in the negotiations that “the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land.” She referred reporters to the department for further details related to the issue.
The Wall Street Journal report stated that the Justice Department was in negotiations with attorneys representing family members who were split apart at the U.S.-Mexico border under then-President Donald Trump’s policy. A number of those families have filed lawsuits against the federal government, arguing that the actions caused substantial psychological damage and trauma.
Roughly 5,500 children were separated at the border during the Trump administration, according to government figures cited by the American Civil Liberties Union. However the newspaper reported that a far smaller contingent of families would likely be eligible to receive settlements.
Biden’s dismissive tone on Wednesday immediately drew condemnation from ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, who warned that the president risked “abandoning a core campaign promise to do justice for the thousands of separated families” if he stuck to that position.
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