White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that President Biden is ‘perfectly comfortable’ with cash payouts to migrant families separated at the border, but insisted the settlements won’t be as high as $450,000.
Fox News‘ Peter Doocy asked Jean-Pierre during the briefing what Biden meant when he called the reports of payments ‘garbage’ after the ACLU claimed that he ‘hadn’t been briefed properly.
Jean-Pierre, standing in for Jen Psaki after her COVID diagnosis, responded by saying that settlements were happening, and he was responding to the claim that they could be close to half-a-million dollars.
‘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 US government,’ she said.
She wouldn’t specify the amount the Biden administration would spend in the settlements and referred all other questions to the Department of Justice.
The American Civil Liberties Union tore into Biden on Wednesday night after he denied reports that his White House is planning on paying separated migrants $450,000 each or $1 million per family.
The head of the ACLU said the 78-year-old president’s statement means he either hasn’t been ‘full briefed’ on the matter or is ‘abandoning’ his promise to undo Donald Trump‘s more strict immigration laws.
‘President 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,’ ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told Fox News.
‘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.
‘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.’
The disputed financial offerings have been heavily criticized by Republicans, who unveiled legislation on Thursday aimed at blocking the payments.
The lawmakers are led by Rep. Tom McClintock of California, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. He said the reported plan ‘adds insult to injury’ amid a months-long border crisis.
McClintock is introducing the bill, the Illegal Immigration Payoff Prohibition Act, and it will be co-sponsored by 137 of his GOP colleagues including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Fox reports.
It’s the first widespread effort by Republicans to stop a reported plan to pay $450,000 per person or up to $1 million per family for migrants who crossed the border illegally and were separated under Donald Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy.
GOP lawmakers have vehemently attacked the proposal, comparing it to giving money to someone breaking into your home.
It’s is meant to amend the US attorney general’s power to hand out financial settlements.
If passed, Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland would be blocked from making payments to undocumented migrants that are directly linked to them running afoul of immigration laws, including entering the country illegally.
‘Law-abiding, hardworking Americans have seen their purchasing power decimated by Biden’s economic policies while he has surrendered our southern border,’ McClintock said in a statement obtained by Fox.
‘Paying illegal immigrants $450,000 apiece as an apology for Trump’s decision to enforce our immigration law adds insult to injury. Congress has the power of the purse, and that’s why we must act today to stop this outrageous plan in its tracks.’
Yesterday Biden denied a report that his administration is giving the hefty payments and accused the media of putting out ‘garbage.’
Speaking at a press conference on the authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for kids aged 5 to 11, the 78-year-old Democrat was asked by Fox News whether the reported payments ‘might incentivize more people to come over illegally.’
‘If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah,’ Biden retorted. ‘But it’s not true.’
Fox reporter Peter Doocy asks, ‘So this is a garbage report?’
Biden stood by his aggressive reaction.
‘Yeah. $450,000 per person, is that what you’re saying?’ Biden asked. ‘That’s not going to happen.’
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis went after Biden over the plan on Tuesday.
The lump sums have been put forward as a way for the U.S. Justice Department to settle lawsuits with migrants who say the policy caused them lasting psychological damage.
But DeSantis, a Trump loyalist, has said he is ‘very, very concerned’ about the payments declaring them to be a ‘slap in the face’ with Americans themselves already struggling to make ends meet as inflation boosts the cost of living.
‘I mean, you think about it, Americans are getting more in their gas bills. They’re getting more in their grocery bills,’ DeSantis said during a press conference. ‘You’ve had all kinds of really bad policies throughout our country that have limited freedom.
‘And you’re going to turn around for that and you’re going to do $475,000 for an individual that came illegally to this country?’ DeSantis decried.
‘I’ve seen a lot in my day — I’ve seen a lot that’s happened over the last nine or ten months that I didn’t think I’d ever see — but this takes the cake,’ the governor said in a furious statement.
‘If that is done, that is going to be a slap in the face to every American who works hard and plays by the rules,’ he continued.
‘And it will especially a slap in the face to people that have immigrated legally to this country. That should not be allowed to stand. It’s wrong, and whatever we can do in Florida to fight back against it, we will do.’
About 5,500 children were split from their parents under President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, under which parents were separated from their children to face criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally, according to court filings in a federal case in San Diego.
Officials from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are now considering the payments that could total close to $1million for two people within the same family.
The total potential payout could cost $1billion or more.
Lawyers for both the families and the government have said that they are working on settlements and hope to be finished by the end of November.
But some government lawyers are outraged at the payments under discussion, which they view as excessive for people who knowingly broke the law by crossing the border. One government lawyer threatened to remove his name from the case in protest of the potential settlement offer.
One government attorney said that the payouts could amount to more than the government paid to the families of 9/11 victims and Gold Star families. Another disputed that comparison, as the US government had not been directly responsible for the 9/11 attack. Payouts averaged $2 million, tax-free, per family.
So far, 45 House Republicans including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, GOP Caucus Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, have put their name to a demanding answers from the Biden administration.
‘Promising tens of thousands of dollars to those who unlawfully entered the United States would not only reward criminal behavior, but it would surely send a message to the world that our borders are open and our rule of law will not be enforced,’ the letter states.
A record 1.7 million families were encountered trying to enter the US illegally in the 2021 fiscal year, ending September 30, up from a record 1.6 million in 2000. Over 479,000 families were encountered, along with an unusually high number of unaccompanied children – 147,000.
Inadequate tracking systems caused many to be apart for an extended time. The payments are intended as compensation for what occurred.
Attorneys for the families are also seeking permanent legal status in the United States for those separated under the practice enacted by former President Trump‘s administration in April 2018.
A judge halted the process after much controversy in June 2018, six days after Trump suspended it amid an international backlash.
The ‘zero-tolerance policy’ applied to families who illegally crossed the US-Mexico border to claim asylum. Since children could not be detained alongside their parents, the families were separated, sometimes with no way to track and reunited them later on, government investigations found.
Now, many families are released into the interior of the US and asked to appear in court at a later date. Some are deported under Title 42, the coronavirus public health policy.
Lawsuits allege that the separated children were housed in poor conditions, and sometimes suffered from malnutrition or heat exhaustion or were kept in freezing cold rooms and offered little medical care. Lawyers for the families argue the children have suffered long-lasting trauma from the anxiety of being without their parents.
The Biden administration has repeatedly deemed the policy cruel and inhumane and promised to reunited families still separated.
Earlier this month, Michelle Brane, head of the Family Reunification Task Force, said that the Biden team had only been able to reunite 52 of the over 1,000 families separated under the policy who have not yet found each other.
‘We estimate that over 1,000, somewhere between 1,000, 1,500, maybe more remain separated,’ Brane said on CBS’ 60 Minutes on October 12. ‘It’s very hard to know because there’s no record.’
She added: ‘So there’s nowhere to go to find out who was separated or not. It really is case-by-case detective work.’
The task force is reportedly in the process of reuniting 200 more.
Reunited families are then given a three-year grant of parole, allowing them to live and work legally in the US for that period, but are not offered a pathway to citizenship.