WASHINGTON, DC – A lawyer for migrant families negotiating a settlement agreement with the U.S. government has rebuffed growing criticism of a proposal to pay them compensation.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt declined to discuss details of the talks or confirm a previously reported settlement proposal worth several hundred thousand dollars to each affected person. He has, however, retained the possibility of a trial, featuring separated parents of children as young as six months as witnesses, if there is no agreement to end the dispute.
“All I can say is there is no deal on the table and we don’t necessarily have a timetable,” Gelernt said on a conference call with reporters.
Settlement talks, which would typically be private until a deal is finalized, have instead become a new line of attack for critics of the Biden administration seeking to link the problem to the growing number of illegal immigrants seeking to cross the US-Mexico border in the past. year. Republicans grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over it when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“As you can imagine, many Americans think it’s a pretty outrageous idea to offer massive taxpayer-funded payments to illegal immigrants who broke our laws, especially amid a record-breaking border crisis that this administration created, “said Senator Chuck. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said at the hearing.
Mayorkas referred senators’ questions to the Justice Department, which handles the negotiations, although at one point he took issue with the suggestion that a settlement would encourage future migrants to seek to come to the United States.
About 5,500 children were forcibly removed from their parents as part of Trump’s zero tolerance policy in which parents were separated from their children as the administration sought to discourage people from crossing the border.
Trump ended the practice in June 2018 before a judge ordered the program to end in response to a complaint filed by the ACLU.
Settlement talks had been going on quietly for months when the Wall Street Journal reported in October that the Justice Department planned to pay about $ 450,000 to each affected person. The Associated Press later confirmed the figure was under review.
In addition to the payment, the settlement talks also included a discussion of granting families legal residency in the United States and providing counseling services.
When asked about the amount on Nov. 3, Biden appeared to misunderstand the question and said a payment of around $ 450,000 per person “was not going to happen.” He then said he supported a settlement, without specifying an amount.
“If, in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you cross the border, whether legally or illegally, and lose your child, you lose your child. Here we go – you deserve some sort of compensation no matter what, ”Biden said. “What it will be, I have no idea. I have no idea.”