President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly considering paying families separated at the U.S. southern border $450,000 a piece in compensation for psychological trauma.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that sources it identified only as unnamed officials familiar with the matter said the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services are considering the payments after facing litigation stemming from President Donald Trump’s policy that separated children and their parents at the southern border.
The Trump administration announced its “zero tolerance” policy in April 2018, which called for every migrant attempting to cross the U.S. border unlawfully to be detained and criminally prosecuted.
People seeking asylum must prove they had to leave their country to seek protection from persecution or fear of persecution. Previous policy had allowed asylum seekers to remain in the U.S. until their applications were reviewed. Under Trump, many such asylum seekers were instead detained, separated from their children, and sent home without them.
Immigration advocates said Trump’s policy led to thousands of children being separated from their parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the administration demanding that the children be reunited with their parents. A judge blocked the policy, and several families were later reunited. The $450,000 payouts would serve as a settlement with the families.
The ACLU said Trump’s policy impacted over 5,500 migrant families. The organization filed a petition calling for the Biden administration to “establish resources and redress funds that include coverage of trauma-informed mental health services.”
The petition also asks the federal government to locate missing parents and provide the families with a pathway to citizenship. The ACLU’s petition also calls for “systemic changes to end family separations” and for an investigation. More than 72,000 people have signed the petition.
In a statement for Forbes regarding the petition, ACLU lead attorney Lee Gelernt stated, “The Biden administration is correct to provide relief to the children and families affected by the government’s horrific practice of family separation. Their suffering is something they will always live with, and it is a deep moral stain on our country. We need to make it right, and this includes not simply any monetary support, but also a path to remain here. This is what is right and fair.”
Republican lawmakers have slammed the proposal that could pay about $1 million to a family of two. Many said it would encourage illegal immigration. Other critics have referred to the unconfirmed payments as “reparations” for immigrants.
Republicans argue the compensation for immigrants would be four times as much as the death gratuity for families who lose a loved one in the military. It also surpasses the Servicemember Group Life Insurance (SGLI), which pays out at maximum of $400,000 and requires service members to have paid into it, Fox News reported.
“Who needs $300 a month when President Biden wants to send $450,000 per person illegal immigrants?” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “That is four and a half times the payment that the Department of Defense sends to survivors of servicemembers who are killed in action.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that a Department of Homeland Security attorney said that the payouts to separated immigrants could be more than what some families of 9/11 victims received, which averaged around $2 million. However, officials pointed out that the U.S government was not responsible for 9/11.
NAACP and other Black-led organizations have not yet spoken out about Biden’s reported plan and the push for reparations for slavery.
Biden did not respond when reporters recently asked about reports on the settlement proposals.