Over the past few months, the Biden administration has been “in talks to offer immigrant families that were separated during the Trump administration around $450,000 a person in compensation, according to people familiar with the matter, as several agencies work to resolve lawsuits filed on behalf of parents and children who say the government subjected them to lasting psychological trauma.”
The Wall Street Journal spoke exclusively with “people familiar with the matter.” The discussion is specifically around families that were “part of a so-called zero-tolerance enforcement policy” during which “immigration agents separated thousands of children ranging from infants to teenagers, from their parents at the southern border in 2018 after they had crossed illegally from Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S.”
A potential payout of $1 billion or more could be given to families from the lawsuits who say the separations under the U.S. government “subjected them to lasting psychological trauma.” Government agencies working to resolve the lawsuits include the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.
The agencies are “considering payments that could amount to close to $1 million a family, though the final numbers could shift, the people familiar with the matter said.” Most families that crossed illegally into the U.S. from Mexico included one parent and one child, the people said. “Many families would likely get smaller payouts, depending on their circumstances, the people said.”
Many lawsuits “describe lasting mental-health problems for the children from the trauma of the months without their parents in harsh conditions, including anxiety, a fear of strangers and nightmares. The lawsuits seek a range of payouts, with the average demand being roughly $3.4 million per family, some of the people said.”
Some government lawyers have viewed the payouts as excessive for people who have violated the law by crossing the border, the people said.” Additionally, “One government lawyer threatened to remove his name from the case out of disagreement with the potential settlement offer, the people said.”
In another instance, a Department of Homeland Security attorney involved “complained on a conference call that the payouts could amount to more than some families of 9/11 victims received.”
“President Biden has agreed that the family separation policy is a historic moral stain on our nation that must be fully remedied,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s immigrant-rights project and a lead negotiator on one of the lawsuits. “That remedy must include not only meaningful monetary compensation but a pathway to remain in the country,” added Gelernt.