The head of the American Civil Liberties Union is clapping back at President Joe Biden after he dismissed as “garbage” previous reports that his administration is negotiating payout settlements with thousands of migrants who crossed illegally into the U.S. worth about $450,000.
Biden “may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement, adding that the president was at risk of “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,” Romero noted further. “We call on President Biden to right the wrongs of this national tragedy.”
His statement comes after Fox News’ White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked Biden about the payments, first reported by The Wall Street Journal last week, and whether they would serve as a magnet for additional illegal border crossings.
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out? Yeah. But it’s not true,” Biden fired back.
“So this is a garbage report?” Doocy asked in response.
“Yeah. $450,000 per person — is that what you’re saying?” Biden said. “That’s not gonna happen.”
But according to the WSJ, who quoted sources familiar with the talks, the administration is planning to offer that amount to families who were separated after crossing illegally into the U.S. as part of former President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration enforcement policies in order to resolve lawsuits “filed on behalf of parents and children who say the government subjected them to lasting psychological trauma.”
The paper said that the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are contemplating payouts of nearly $1 million per family, though final settlement amounts may change.
“Most of the families that crossed the border illegally from Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S. included one parent and one child,” the Journal reported, citing the sources. “Many families would likely get smaller payouts, depending on their circumstances.”
The total payout could cost American taxpayers upwards of $1 billion, the WSJ noted.
“As part of a so-called zero-tolerance enforcement policy, immigration agents separated thousands of children, ranging from infants to teenagers, from their parents at the southern border in 2018 after they had crossed illegally from Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S. In some cases families were forcefully broken up with no provisions to track and later reunite them, government investigations found,” the WSJ reported.
In fact, the paper added, the ACLU is representing some of the families after identifying around 5,500 children that were separated at the border under the former administration. Thus far, the WSJ reported, around 940 claims have been filed. Sources told the paper that it’s unclear how many claims will eventually be filed and settled.
In April 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the zero-tolerance policy; Trump rescinded it via executive order in June 2018 following major backlash.
The illegal migrant payouts would not be the first controversial decision by the Biden Justice Department.
Last month, the DOJ agreed to reinstate fired FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s pension while also agreeing to compensate him $200,000 in benefit payments and $540,000 in attorney fees.
The deputy director became the second high-ranking DOJ official to be fired during the Trump administration after the president dismissed FBI Director James Comey over a loss of confidence. McCabe was fired by Sessions after the FBI’s non-partisan Office of Professional Responsibility determined that he lied to FBI agents as well as Comey and the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General regarding the authorization of a media leak regarding the bureau’s investigation of the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe was not prosecuted, however, despite the fact that lying to the FBI carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
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