The Biden administration is considering paying out a whopping $450,000 per person to families separated at the southern border as it tries to settle lawsuits with migrants who say the policy caused them lasting psychological damage.
Officials from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are considering the payments that could total close to $1 million for two people within the same family, people familiar told the Wall Street Journal.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the separated families, has identified about 5,500 children separated from parents at the border during the course of the Trump-era policy.
Former President Trump’s administration enacted the policy in April 2018 and withdrew it two months later after much controversy in June.
The total potential payout could cost $1 billion or more.
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.
The Biden administration is considering paying out a whopping $450,000 per person to families separated at the southern border
Officials from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are considering the payments that could total close to $1 million for two people within the same family
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.
They seek a range of payouts, averaging $3.4 million per family, according to the WSJ.
Under the Biden administration, 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
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 Oct. 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.
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. 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, according to the paper.
A record 1.7 million families were encountered trying to enter the US illegally in the 2021 fiscal year, ending Sept. 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.