President Biden said Saturday that migrants separated at the southern border during the Trump administration deserve compensation, but it likely won’t be $450,000.
Mr. Biden‘s remarks walked back his comments earlier this week when he dismissed reports that his administration would be paying migrants who were separated at the border as “garbage.” He told reporters he was talking about the number, not the payments themselves.
“The number is what I was referring to,” Mr. Biden said.
“If, in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you — coming across the border whether it was legal or illegal — and you lost your child — gone — deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstances,” Mr. Biden said.
“What that would be, I have no idea,” he continued.
Mr. Biden on Wednesday touched off a firestorm when he was asked about reports his administration was contemplating paying roughly $450,000 per person for separated migrant parents and children.
“That’s not going to happen,” he responded.
The White House scrambled to walk back his remarks the next day, clarifying that the government would be willing to settle out of court with families, but said Mr. Biden was referring specifically to the $450,000 figure that had been reported.
“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 United States government,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
She said the Justice Department “made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the migrant families in their lawsuit against the government, said Mr. Biden had not been briefed on the actions by its own Justice Department. It also said that Mr. Biden would break a key campaign promise to provide justice for those separated under President Trump’s policies.