Updated Nov 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Payments to families separated at border still being negotiated, White House clarifies

Picture of Joe Biden

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House clarified Thursday that negotiations are ongoing for payments to families who were separated at the border under the Trump administration.

The latest: The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Justice Department was in talks to pay $450,000 per person to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of the families affected. When asked about the payments this week, President Biden had said, "That's not going to happen." Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday his response was to the $450,000 figure and not the payments themselves.

What she's saying: "If it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration’s use of zero tolerance and family separation behind this, the president is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with the individuals and families who are currently in litigation with the US government," Jean said at a White House briefing.

  • "The DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land."

Catch up quick: After Biden appeared to reject the payments on Wednesday, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought one of the lawsuits, said in a statement that if Biden "follows through on what he said, the president is abandoning a core campaign promise to do justice for the thousands of separated families."

  • "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," Anthony Romero said. "We call on President Biden to right the wrongs of this national tragedy."

Between the lines: Romero also confirmed to Axios that the "DOJ communicated on Wednesday evening that the settlement numbers for separated families were higher than where the settlement could land. Parties continue to negotiate."

  • The DOJ declined to comment on the issue.
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