On Saturday, President Joe Biden said families in which children were separated from their parents after illegally crossing the United States-Mexico border during President Donald Trump’s administration should receive U.S. taxpayer compensation. Biden’s Department of Justice is currently in settlement talks with impacted families.
Biden yelled at reporters over the weekend, saying that the circumstance surrounding family separation is irrelevant and those affected should be paid.
“If, in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you coming across the border, whether it was legally or illegally, and you lost your child — You lost your child. It’s gone — you deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstance,” Biden said. “What that will be I have no idea. I have no idea.”
A person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press that the Biden administration was considering paying illegal immigrants separated at the border around $450,000 for each person impacted, but the figure has been slightly adjusted. The source spoke on a condition of anonymity because the settlement discussions are not public.
Legal representation for the families involved in the discussions are also seeking permanent legal status in the United States, the AP reported.
Early reports of the proposed payments to illegal immigrants sparked outrage among Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, who argued giving those committing border crimes compensation would incentivize more illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border. In FY2021, more than 1.7 million illegal immigrants were arrested at the southern border, according to United States Customs and Border Protection statistics.
“The Biden administration’s proposed $1 billion taxpayer-funded payout to illegal immigrants will certainly incentivize additional illegal immigration,” GOP members of the committee, led by Ranking Member Jim Jordan, said in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday, Fox News reported.
“This sort of action is exactly the wrong message the administration should send at this time,” they continued.
On Thursday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified that Biden “is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with individuals and families currently in litigation with the U.S. government.” She added that the $450,000 amount is “higher than anywhere that a settlement can land.”
The president had previously dismissed reports of the payments as “garbage” that is “not going to happen,” prompting criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, which said 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.”