By Zachary Stieber
Illegal immigrant families who were separated during the Trump administration after crossing the border should be paid, President Joe Biden said Saturday.
“If in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you were coming across the border, whether it 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,” Biden told reporters in Washington.
The Biden administration is currently negotiating a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other legal groups who represent illegal immigrants separated during the Trump administration, the Department of Justice has confirmed to news outlets.
Biden confused some when, during a briefing Wednesday, he reacted strongly after being presented with reporting that the administration could pay each illegal immigrant up to $450,000 each, or up to $1 million per family.
“Do you think that that might incentivize more people to come over illegally?” he was asked.
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah. But it’s not true,” Biden responded.
After confirming the reporter asked about $450,000 payments per person, he said, “That’s not going to happen.”
The ACLU then issued a statement saying Biden “may not have been fully briefed” about what the Department of Justice was up to, and a White House spokeswoman said Thursday that the illegal immigrants could get government payouts.
Biden was saying the figure of $450,000 wasn’t accurate, spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Biden said the same on Saturday.
“The number is what I was referring to,” he said.
As to the level of compensation that each illegal immigrant should get, he said he had “no idea.”
Critics have decried the planned payouts, which would be larger than payments to family members of U.S. troops who are killed in action and survivors of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
“The administration’s open border policies are incentivizing this surge of illegal immigration. If this payout plan moves forward, it will be a clear message that breaking our immigration laws will not only be tolerated but also be rewarded,” Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) wrote on Twitter on Friday.
“Not only would these settlements be breathtakingly unjust and unwise, but they reinforce the conditions that make it easy for the cartels to recruit more people to undertake the treacherous journey to our southwest border, and serve only to encourage more illegal immigration,” a group of senators wrote to the president this week.
The Biden administration has presided over a historic surge in illegal immigrants crossing the southern border, breaking a fiscal year record and on track to break the record for most apprehensions in a single year.
Biden’s reversal or alteration of Trump-era policies like the Migrant Policy Protocols have sparked the surge, some experts say. The administration has accused the Trump administration of dealing cruelly with illegal immigrants and has claimed it takes time to overhaul the immigration system to a better version.