The ACLU lawyers suing the U.S. government on behalf of illegal immigrants separated at the border by the Trump administration have said President Joe Biden’s team is dropping a plan to pay each of nearly 1,000 immigrant families a per-person settlement of $450,000 in taxpayers’ money.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the Justice Department abandoned the plan in the face of political pressure from conservatives outraged over the idea of paying people who essentially broke into the country.
“After the settlement talks were reported,” the Journal noted, “the government told outside negotiators the number would need to be lowered. This week, the lawyers say, the Justice Department pulled out of negotiations entirely.”
“We are hardly naive that politics sometimes plays a role in Justice Department decisions but it is shameful that it happened when the lives of little children are at stake,” Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s immigrant-rights project and a lead negotiator in the case, told the Journal.
“History will not look kindly on the Biden administration’s decision not to stand up for these small children.”
Curiously, it wasn’t clear who Biden was standing up for in this case.
In early November, Biden told a reporter that the notion of the payments, first reported by the Journal, were “garbage.” That happened after Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and 10 other GOP senators denounced the payments.
In a letter, they argued to Biden that “rewarding illegal immigration with financial payments runs counter to our laws and would only serve to encourage more lawlessness at our border.”
When the reporter sought verification of the nonpayments, Biden replied, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” “It’s not true,” he added.
Yet, as Americans have seen so often from Biden, he changed course.
“Whether [crossing the border] was legal or illegal, and you lost your child, you lost your child, it’s gone — you deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstance” he told reporters.
“What that [amount] will be, I have no idea,” he added.
And the White House agreed that his reversal was really the policy.
“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,” Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at the time.
The ACLU claimed Biden’s initial stance emerged because he “may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department.”
Before the Justice Department’s more recent reversal, the typical estimate was that taxpayers would be on the hook for roughly $1 billion total to pay all the families involved, who claimed they were traumatized by Trump’s zero-tolerance policy that led to some families being divided up while in custody.
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