President Biden is “perfectly comfortable” with cash payouts to migrant families whose members were detained separately after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.
Jean-Pierre pointedly pivoted Biden’s assessment after the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday night said Biden “may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department.”
“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,” Jean-Pierre said at the daily White House press briefing.
“The president, what he was reacting to, was a figure that was mentioned, that you mentioned to him yesterday… DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land.”
Biden on Wednesday appeared unaware of settlement negotiations and dismissed as ridiculous the large reported size of payouts.
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy had asked Biden about a Wall Street Journal report on the possible range of settlement amounts and whether large payouts could spur even more illegal immigration.
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out? Yeah. But it’s not true,” Biden shot back.
“So this is a garbage report?” Doocy asked.
“Yeah. $450,000 per person — is that what you’re saying?” Biden replied. “That’s not gonna happen.”
The Journal reported last week that the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services “are considering payments that could amount to close to $1 million a family” for migrants detained during the Trump administration.
The total amount paid out could reach close to $1 billion to settle lawsuits filed over the separations, which drew public outcry because children were housed apart from their parents.
Family units were separated under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ April 2018 “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all adults who illegally cross the border. President Donald Trump signed an order to end family separations in June 2018.