The Justice Department is arguing in court that immigrants who were forcibly separated from their families by the Trump administration do not deserve compensation for the actions of U.S. officials.
In a court filing in Pennsylvania on Jan. 7, Justice said the separated families are not entitled to compensation and asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, according to a report by The Washington Post.
A similar motion to dismiss was filed in California, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to follow the same strategy in similar lawsuits, according to the report.
The moves come after negotiations broke down in December between attorneys representing separated families and the DOJ.
While the DOJ said in its briefs it does not condone the Trump-era policy of separating families to dissuade unauthorized border crossings, it said the case was about whether migrants can challenge immigration enforcement.
“At issue in this case is whether adults who entered the country without authorization can challenge the federal government’s enforcement of federal immigration laws,” read the briefing. “They cannot.”
The hard-line legal stance against immigrants comes in the wake of reports that the Biden administration was preparing to pay $450,000 to families that had been separated as part of the zero-tolerance policy.
President Biden in October denied that figure, which was never officially announced, but Republicans seized on the reports as undue payments rewarding alleged illegal actions by the migrants.
The political pressure contributed to the breakdown of negotiations in December, with the ACLU leading representation for the migrant families, and set the stage for at least 19 lawsuits and dozens of administrative complaints filed against the Biden administration.
Immigrant advocates and some Democrats view the DOJ’s position as a broken Biden campaign promise, as Biden pledged to make amends for his predecessor’s immigration enforcement policies.
The Biden administration has set up a task force to reunite the 2,800 families separated by the Trump administration, but not all split relatives have successfully reconnected.
Court action could eventually lead to large awards for the immigrant families if the DOJ fails to win the lawsuits, exposing the administration to pressure from the right.
The Biden administration could also face further pressures from immigrant advocates, although the Department of Homeland Security has provided the separated families with three-year work permits and counseling services.
DOJ asked the judges in the lawsuits to transfer the court cases to border states, regardless of where the immigrant families live now, and a DOJ court victory could leave families with no compensation whatsoever.