White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that President Joe Biden is “perfectly comfortable” with the Department of Justice (DOJ) settling with families separated at the border under the prior administration – just one day after the president dismissed reports of payouts as “garbage.”
“If it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration’s [former President Donald Trump] use of zero tolerance and family separation behind us, the president is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with the individuals and families who are currently in litigation with the U.S. government,” Jean-Pierre said following reports that the administration was considering paying illegal immigrant families separated at the border up to $450,000 each.
The report, published in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 28, noted that the payments could come as the result of ongoing lawsuits filed on behalf of children and parents. The WSJ estimated that the total payout for settling could run $1 billion or more. Biden dismissed the report on Wednesday, calling it “garbage” and declaring it is “not gonna happen.”
Pressed later on whether Biden had been briefed by DOJ on the settlement issue, and whether it was appropriate for @POTUS to weigh in (again) on a pending DOJ matter, @KJP46 says “he was asked a question and he answered it. There’s nothing much more to add to that.”
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) November 4, 2021
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah, but it’s not true,” the president said when asked whether these settlements could incentive more illegal border crossings. “Yeah, $450,000 per person, is that what you’re saying? That’s not gonna happen.” (RELATED: Number Of Detained Illegal Immigrants Declines As ICE Arrests Hardly Anyone)
Jean-Pierre suggested Biden was not dismissing the substance of the report, but the dollar figure mentioned.
“What he was reacting to was the dollar figure that was mentioned … as press accounts today indicate, there’s been press accounts on this, DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land,” she said, referring any further comments or questions to the DOJ.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represents families in one of the lawsuits according to the WSJ, hit back at Biden’s remarks later Wednesday. ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero suggested to Fox News that Biden “may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department 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 continued. “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.”