Biden rejects payments of $ 450,000 for separated migrants

WASHINGTON – President Biden said on Wednesday that migrants separated from family members at the border would not receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for damages inflicted by Trump-era policies, rejecting a monetary compensation option that had been launched during negotiations with lawyers representing the families.

Representatives of migrant families and government officials discussed granting families $ 450,000 for each member affected by former President Donald J. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which led to the separation about 5,500 children of their parents, according to people familiar with the matter. . But when asked on Wednesday to compensate migrants, Mr Biden denied the option was on the table.

“$ 450,000 per person? Is that what you’re saying? “Mr Biden said to Fox News reporter Peter Doocy’s question about payments.” It’s not going to happen. “

Mr Biden made the comment as he answered questions after touting the upcoming availability of vaccines for children. The remark was quickly condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is negotiating on behalf of the separated families.

“If he follows through on what he said, the president is abandoning a fundamental campaign pledge to bring justice to the thousands of separated families,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a statement. “We respectfully remind President Biden that he called these actions ‘criminal’ in a debate with then President Trump, and campaigned to redress the lawlessness of the Trump administration.”

Mr Romero also acknowledged that Mr Biden may have been caught off guard by the matter and may not have been aware of the details of the ongoing negotiations with the Justice Department.

The comments, however, also represented the second time in recent weeks that the president has spoken of the Justice Department’s ongoing actions. After Mr. Trump interfered in the affairs of the department on several occasions, Mr. Biden made restoring the agency’s independence one of his goals.

Asked about the president’s comment on Wednesday, Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said “the department will not comment on pending litigation.”

Mr Biden said last month the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol, a comment he later returned when of a CNN town hall.

“The way I said it was not appropriate,” Mr. Biden said.

In negotiations with the administration, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, attorneys representing migrants argued that the US government had harmed families by separating parents from children. In addition to financial compensation, the ACLU is also trying to come to an agreement with the government that would, among other things, provide a route for families to stay in the United States and receive social services.

The Biden administration’s handling of the increase in illegal border crossings has come under criticism from Democrats and Republicans. To deal with the record number of crossings, Biden continued to use a Trump-era border policy that quickly pushes many migrants back to the border without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States. The administration said the policy was necessary to contain the ongoing pandemic.

The deterrent approach has also sparked fierce debate within the administration, with some of Mr. Biden’s top aides favoring tougher policies to contain crossings, while others arguing for a more welcoming stance to hold the line. President’s campaign pledge to re-establish an asylum program on the southwest border.

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