President Joe Biden denied reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering settling lawsuits with illegal immigrants separated from their families under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy.
Settlement payments of $450,000 to illegal immigrants separated from their families are “not going to happen,” Biden told Fox News’ Peter Doocy during a Wednesday press conference. The president called the initial report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) “garbage,” agreeing that the media’s reporting “might incentivize more people to come over illegally.”
More than 940 illegal immigrant families have filed lawsuits against the U.S. government, alleging that the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from adults with whom they crossed the border caused psychological distress. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose lead negotiator argued that the illegal immigrants must receive “not only meaningful monetary compensation, but a pathway to remain in the country.”
The average requested payout is $3.4 million per family, according to WSJ. The plaintiffs also alleged that the children were denied medical attention and suffered from malnutrition while in government custody.
Republicans in Congress and former Trump administration officials blasted the reported settlement, arguing that it would incentivize more illegal immigration. (RELATED: Number Of Detained Illegal Immigrants Declines As ICE Arrests Hardly Anyone)
More than 3,000 children were separated from parents or guardians beginning in 2018 as part of a zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration announced by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. An Inspector General report released in early 2021 found that 545 children separated from their parents or guardians had not yet been reunited with them.
The Trump administration lifted the policy after it was implemented for less than three months, following congressional and media outcry.
Shortly after entering office, Biden pledged to reunite the remaining children with their families, calling the Trump policy a “moral and national shame.”
The ACLU first filed the lawsuit in 2019, targeting the Trump administration, DOJ, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of Refugee Resettlement.