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White House says Biden is 'comfortable' settling with families separated during Trump administration, but not for $450K

  President Joe Biden is OK with the Justice Department settling with families separated at the US-Mexico border under the Trump administr...


President Joe Biden is OK with the Justice Department settling with families separated at the US-Mexico border under the Trump administration, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday, but not for a reported $450,000 each.


"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," Jean-Pierre said during the White House press briefing.


Biden said Wednesday that families separated at the border under the Trump administration's so-called "zero-tolerance policy" will not receive payments of $450,000, calling a report on the figure "garbage." But he did not get into details about any possible monetary settlements for those families.


Responding to a question about Biden's statement, Jean-Pierre said the President was reacting to "the dollar figure that was mentioned." She deferred to the Justice Department on what the dollar figure could be.


After Biden's comments on Wednesday, the Justice Department told attorneys representing families separated at the US southern border under the Trump administration that the reported settlement figures "are higher than anywhere that settlement can land," American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero told CNN.


Jean-Pierre, addressing CNN's reporting, acknowledged that "as press accounts to date indicate ... DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land."

When Jean-Pierre was asked if the President consulted with the Justice Department about the settlements, she said Biden believes in the department's independence.


More than 3,000 children were separated from their families at the US-Mexico border under former President Donald Trump. It's unclear how many people would be eligible for payments.


Outside groups and a government watchdog have found over the years that children separated from their families under the "zero tolerance" policy experienced trauma. A 2019 Health and Human Services inspector general report included accounts of facility staff detailing the inconsolable crying of children when they were separated, the kids' confusion and belief they had been abandoned by their parents.


The Physicians for Human Rights likened it to "torture," and the American Academy of Pediatrics told CNN the Trump administration's practice of separating families at the border was "child abuse."


More than three years later, attorneys are still trying to reach the parents of 270 migrant children who were separated at the US-Mexico border under the Trump administration, according to a federal court filing Wednesday.


The Biden administration has committed to helping reunite families as part of a family reunification task force. Since the creation of the task force, 58 children have been reunified with their parents in the United States, according to the filing.



By Priscilla Alvarez and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

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