President Joe Biden on Wednesday dismissed the idea that immigrant families separated at the southern border under his predecessor’s zero-tolerance policy could receive payments of $450,000 per person in monetary settlements, calling the report “garbage.”
Following remarks at the White House about Covid vaccines for children, Biden was asked by a Fox News reporter whether the payments would incentivize more people to cross the border illegally.
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah,” Biden said. “But it’s not true.”
When pressed on the matter, Biden appeared surprised by the $450,000 figure.
“$450,000 per person? Is that what you’re saying?” the president said. “That’s not going to happen.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported last week that family members who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under then-President Donald Trump’s immigration policy could receive hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of settlement negotiations between the families’ lawyers and the Department of Justice. The payments could add up to hundreds of millions of dollars as agencies look to settle lawsuits filed by parents and children who say the U.S. government’s actions subjected them to lasting psychological trauma.
About 5,500 children were separated at the border during the Trump administration, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, citing figures provided by the government. The number of families eligible for the money will likely be smaller, according to the Wall Street Journal report, and around 940 claims have been filed so far.
Biden’s comments on Wednesday drew ire from immigration advocates like ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, who said Biden might have not been up to speed on the Justice Department’s actions as it “carefully deliberated and considered the crimes committed against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional governmental policy.”
“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,” Romero said. “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.”