According to White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, President Biden is “perfectly comfortable” with cash payments to migrant families whose members were detained separately after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.
The response comes just a day after Biden called a report that his administration is considering $450,000-per-person payments “garbage.”
After the American Civil Liberties Union stated on Wednesday night that Biden “may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department,” Jean-Pierre pointedly shifted Biden’s assessment.
Jean-Pierre told reporters during the daily White House press briefing, “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 US government.”
“The president, what he was reacting to, was a figure that was mentioned, that you mentioned to him yesterday… DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land.”
On Wednesday, Biden appeared to be unaware of settlement talks and dismissed the large reported size of payouts as ridiculous.
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy had questioned Biden about a Wall Street Journal report on the possible range of settlement amounts, as well as whether large payouts would encourage even more illegal immigration.
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out? Yeah. But it’s not true,” Biden shot back.
“So this is a garbage report?” Doocy asked.
“Yeah. $450,000 per person, is that what you’re saying? That’s not gonna happen,” Biden replied.
According to the Journal, the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are “considering payments that could amount to close to $1 million per family” for migrants detained during Trump’s presidency.
The total amount paid out to settle lawsuits filed over the separations, which drew public outcry because children were housed apart from their parents, could be close to $1 billion.
Under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ April 2018 “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all adults who illegally cross the border, family units were separated. In June 2018, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to end family separations.
Republicans have been outraged by the proposed financial settlements.
“You can’t break our laws and then win the lottery,” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Thursday.
“The message of deterrence is pretty much gone. This is what really angers the American people. This is why you saw the result you saw last Tuesday. They’re tired of these kinds of stories,” McCaul added.