White House walks back Biden comments on migrant families payments

The White House on Thursday walked back President Biden’s comments from the day before that the administration would not be paying migrants separated at the border during the last administration $450,000 each, clarifying that the government would be willing to settle out of court with those families.

“If it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration’s 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 United States government,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Biden on Wednesday was asked about reports that his administration was contemplating a payment of roughly $450,000 per person for separated migrant parents and children.

“That’s not gonna happen,” he told reporters when asked about the reported plan.

Jean-Pierre on Thursday asserted Biden was reacting specifically to the $450,000 figure that was mentioned when he was asked about it.

“As press accounts to date indicate, DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land,” she said.

Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy asked Biden on Wednesday if the payments could encourage migrants to flock to the U.S. 

“If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah,” Biden said. “But it’s not true.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a statement suggested Biden had not not briefed on the actions of his own DOJ, and it further argued the president would be turning his back on a core campaign promise to provide a measure of justice for those separated under the Trump policy.

The potential payments would come as the government faces numerous lawsuits from families separated under the Trump administration’s policy, which saw thousands of children taken away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is coming from the last administration’s cruel, inhuman, immoral policies against just people,” Jean-Pierre said. “It’s separating children from their families. … That’s how we got here is because of the last administration. This is what we’re trying to deal with here in this administration.”

GOP lawmakers have chastised the Biden administration over reports of the potential payouts.

However, legal experts told The Washington Post that settling with the families could prove less costly than allowing the cases to play out in court, where more details about the government’s harsh treatment of migrants could also emerge.

Biden at the start of his presidency formed a task force to reunite families that were still separated as a result of the Trump-era policy. The head of the task force, Michelle Brane, told “60 Minutes” last month that the group has reunited 52 families since February. 

Tags child separation at the border immigration policy Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre migrant families southern border Zero tolerance

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