White House

White House Communications Team Walks Back Biden Comments on Settlement Payments to Migrant Families

Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, May 26, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

After a report surfaced that the Biden administration had been considering making settlement payments of $450,000 to migrant families separated at the border under the Trump administration, President Biden dismissed the rumors, calling them “garbage” and insisting that it’s “not gonna happen.”

During a White House briefing Friday, however, deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre walked back the president’s statement, saying “if it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration use of ‘zero-tolerance’ and family separation behind us, the president is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling individuals and families who are currently in litigation with the U.S. government.”

The about-face came after Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked for clarification on the president’s position. The American Civil Liberties Union has stated the negotiations over compensating immigrants affected by the “zero tolerance policy,” which referred all migrants who entered the country illegally for prosecution, are still underway.

“Biden may not have even fully briefed about the actions of his own DOJ as it carefully considered the crimes committed against thousands of families. But if he follows through on what he said, the president is abandoning a campaign promise to do justice for separated families,” the organization tweeted Wednesday.

The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services have been deliberating issuing payments to migrants, as they’re presently embroiled in lawsuits alleging that the government caused enduring psychological trauma in parents and children, sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal. In total, the reparation package could cost the government more than $1 billion.

The ACLU estimates that approximately 5,500 children were separated from their families at the border under the Trump administration. Government officials project that the number of families eligible for monetary relief will be smaller.

According to the Journal, the average request for damages payment is about $3.4 million per family.

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