The Justice Department has ended negotiations with attorneys that represent migrant families who were separated at the border after crossing illegally into the U.S. during the Trump administration.
Instead, the DoJ announced it is ready to return to court, one of the attorneys involved in the original negotiations said.
“The DOJ hasn’t commented about why it stopped the talks, but the news comes after the White House came under fire over news that payments of up to $450,000 — to which President Joe Biden objected — were under consideration for the immigrant families,” Newsmax reported, citing CNN.
The decision to pull back on the negotiations is “shameful,” noted American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt.
“The U.S. government deliberately abused young children and yet the Biden administration has allowed politics to stand in the way of making it right. That’s shameful,” Gelernt told CNN via a statement.
Under former President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, more than 3,000 migrant children and their families were separated at the border.
Attorneys are still trying to find the parents of 270 children, according to a separate court filing in November.
The ACLU is seeking damages for the toll separations have taken on families, while attorneys representing the families themselves had filed separate legal claims.
After Biden rejected the $450,000 restitution payments, the DOJ said any settlements wouldn’t go that high, and attorneys for the immigrants said there is too much “lack of clarity” about what the government will do for the families.
Zachary Manfredi, the litigation director for the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, accused the Biden administration of “officially [breaking] its promise” to the families who were separated when they illegally entered the United States.
“The Biden administration has chosen to defend the policy of family separation in court,” he told CNN.
News that the administration was in talks with migrant families was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in late October.
“The U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are considering payments that could amount to close to $1 million a family, though the final numbers could shift, the people familiar with the matter said,” according to the paper.
“Most of the families that crossed the border illegally from Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S. included one parent and one child, the people said. Many families would likely get smaller payouts, depending on their circumstances, the people said,” according to the paper.
“In another instance, a Department of Homeland Security attorney involved in the settlement talks complained on a conference call that the payouts could amount to more than some families of 9/11 victims received, one person said,” the WSJ added.
“Other people said senior departmental officials were in alignment on the amount and disputed the 9/11 comparison, given that the U.S. government hadn’t been responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The 9/11 victim compensation fund averaged awards to the dead of around $2 million, tax-free, at the time an unprecedented payout, the administrator of the fund has said,” the paper reported.
Republicans who caught wind of the discussions were outraged.
“It would be unthinkable to pay damages to a burglar who broke into your home for the ‘psychological trauma’ they endured during the crime,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) noted in a statement, according to Breitbart News. “And yet the Biden administration wants to reward migrants who illegally entered our country with up to $450,000 each for just that reason.”
“The Biden administration’s promises of citizenship and entitlement programs have already caused the worst border crisis in history — a huge cash reward will make it even worse. This is the height of insanity,” Cotton said.