The Biden administration could pay out up to $1 billion to immigrant families that were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services could end up paying out close to $1 million per immigrant family that was separated at the border. Sources told the Journal that around $450,000 a person is being considered, but that figure could change depending on each family’s circumstances.
Discussions of payouts have taken place over the course of the past few months between lawyers representing immigrant families that are suing the federal government and the government’s own lawyers, according to the Journal. Some government lawyers apparently viewed the payout amounts as excessive.
Margo Schlanger, a Homeland Security officer for civil rights and civil liberties during the Obama administration, told the Journal, “Damage class actions in this kind of case are pretty rare, it’s hard to think of a recent comparison.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing multiple families in a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy. In January, it issued a statement urging the incoming Biden administration to act quickly on the issue.
“The incoming administration must reunite the separated families in the United States, but we cannot stop there. These families deserve citizenship, resources, care, and a commitment that family separation will never happen again.”
The Biden administration created the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, and its latest progress report, released in September, confirmed it had reunified 50 children separated from their parents and provided access to behavioral health services. Another 2,171 children have been reunified through a court order and from the efforts of nongovernmental organizations.
However, the same report confirmed 1,727 children have not yet been reunified with their families, accounting for 33 percent of all those identified as separated from their parents by the Homeland Security Department under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.
The ACLU is still battling its lawsuit with the Biden administration and according to the Journal, not all the families it’s representing will be eligible for a potential financial settlement.
The Office of the Inspector General conducted a review of the Justice Department’s zero tolerance policy and found that under former attorney general Jeff Sessions, the agency “failed to effectively prepare for, or manage, the implementation of the zero tolerance policy.”