(CNN) — President Joe Biden said Wednesday that families separated at the border under the Trump administration’s so-called zero-tolerance policy will not receive payments of $ 450,000, but did not elaborate on possible monetary settlements for them.
Biden, following comments about authorizing the Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, was asked if payments of that size could incentivize people to try to enter the country illegally. The president responded by calling the report “garbage.”
“Not true,” he said.
In 2018, the government of Donald Trump announced its “zero tolerance” policy, in which the Justice Department began criminal prosecutions of all adults who crossed the border illegally, and ended after widespread opposition. The policy resulted in the separation of thousands of families, including those with babies, some as young as a few months, because children cannot remain in federal jail with their parents.
A source familiar with the matter told CNN last week that migrant families who were forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under the policy could receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation as part of negotiations for a Agreement between the Department of Justice and the families’ attorneys.
More than 3,000 children were separated from their families on the US-Mexico border under former President Donald Trump. It is unclear how many people would be eligible to receive payments.
Negotiations are ongoing and it is unknown what the final figure will be, the source familiar with the matter at the time told CNN, noting that different numbers have been discussed on several occasions. Financial compensation would likely vary and not everyone would get the agreed maximum amount.
The Wall Street Journal reportó for the first time that the federal government considered making payments of US $ 450,000 per individual affected by the zero tolerance policy. The American Civil Liberties Union presented a demand in 2019 seeking damages for the cost the separations charged the families, and the attorneys representing the families have filed separate claims.
In a statement Wednesday, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said Biden must correct the mistakes of the Donald Trump administration.
“President Biden may not have been fully briefed on the actions of his own Justice Department, as he carefully deliberated and viewed the crimes committed against thousands of families separated from their children as intentional government policy,” Romero said. “But if he does what he said, the president is abandoning a central campaign promise to bring justice to thousands of separated families. We respectfully remind President Biden that he called these actions ‘criminals’ in a debate with then-President Trump, and campaigned to remedy and rectify the illegality of the Trump administration. “
Outside groups and a government watchdog have discovered over the years that children separated from their families under the policy experienced trauma. A 2019 Inspector General of Health and Human Services (HHS) report included accounts from facility staff detailing the inconsolable crying of the children when they were separated, the children’s confusion and the belief that their parents had abandoned them.
CNN’s Priscilla Álvarez contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism