The American Civil Liberties Union blasted the administration of President Joe Biden after the Department of Justice broke off talks Thursday negotiating settlement money for the families of separated illegal migrants.
“By abandoning negotiations to help children and families that were separated at the border heal, the Biden administration will have to defend the family separation practice in court,” the organization posted on Twitter Thursday. “We’ll repeat that: [President Biden] has chosen to DEFEND the family separation practice in court.”
A DOJ official announced the end of the talks, which initially centered around giving illegal migrant family members separated under the policies of former President Donald Trump, $450,000 each in damages to settle a federal lawsuit, because they could not reach an agreement with the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, FOX News reported Thursday.
“While the parties have been unable to reach a global settlement agreement at this time, we remain committed to engaging with the plaintiffs and to bringing justice to the victims of this abhorrent policy,” DOJ spokesperson Dena Iverson told Fox News in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal reported in October that the administration was in talks with the ACLU and the approximately 5,500 families separated at the southern border as a result of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policies.
According to that report, the families would get $450,000 per person, up to $1 million per family, in compensation to resolve lawsuits filed on their behalf.
The Journal reported an estimated cost of the payouts to exceed $1 billion.
Since that report, the Biden administration publicly rebuked the amount of the payouts, with Biden himself saying during a televised press conference that the payments were not “going to happen.”
“If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah, but it’s not true,” Biden told a reporter when asked Nov. 3. “$450,000 per person? Is that what you’re saying? That’s not going to happen.”
At the time, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero expressed anger at the Biden administration for walking back the amount, which he said, “carefully deliberated and considered the crimes committed against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional governmental policy,” Politico reported Nov. 3.
“But if he follows through on what he said, the president is abandoning a core campaign promise to do justice for the thousands of separated families,” Romero said in the Politico story. “We respectfully remind President Biden that he called these actions ‘criminal’ in a debate with then-President Trump and campaigned on remedying and rectifying the lawlessness of the Trump administration. We call on President Biden to right the wrongs of this national tragedy.”
NBC News reported Nov. 4 that the DOJ reentered talks with the ACLU and families trying to lower the amount of the compensation.
Romero told NBC that Biden may not have been “fully briefed” on the ongoing negotiations when he commented.
“[Biden] may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department as it carefully considered the crimes committed against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional government policy,” he said in the report.