Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
A new potential agreement has the Biden admin atoning for immigrations sins. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

U.S. could be on the hook for hundreds of millions in compensation for separated families

The Biden administration is in negotiations to provide hundreds of thousands per person separated at the border.


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Thousands of migrant parents and children separated from each other at the U.S. border by Trump-era policies may soon become eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars per person in compensation.

On Thursday, Oct. 28, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration is in talks to offer separated migrant parents and children around $450,000 per person. If a parent and a child were separated at the border, together they would be eligible for a combined payment of $900,000. 

The talks are part of negotiations between the Justice Department and lawyers representing the separated families in a number of tort cases that have claimed the families experienced harm when they were forcibly removed from each other. 

The sum total of the payments remains unknown as negotiations continue, but if enough parents and children are located, the U.S. government could be paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for what the families underwent. 

Under former President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy in 2018, and a pilot program in 2017, more than 5,600 children were separated from their parents simply because their parents crossed the border illegally with them. 

Before the policy, crossing the border illegally, a misdemeanor under U.S. law, did not result in parents who crossed with children being federally prosecuted and therefore separated from their children. 

The Trump administration had no system in place to quickly reunite the families it separated. Today, more than 1,000 families are estimated to still be separated from each other, according to the White House. 

In many cases, the parents were deported back to their home countries while their children remained in the states. According to court records, more than 300 parents of separated children have still not been located. 

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who is representing the separated families in a federal lawsuit, told NBC News that financial compensation is truly the minimum when it comes to reconciliation.

“These families, particularly the young children, were deliberately traumatized by our government and deserve not only adequate compensation but the chance to remain here so they can begin to heal,” Gelernt said. 

Gelernt told The Wall Street Journal he is “hopeful that families will receive holistic relief as President Biden promised.”

So far, the task force set up by the Biden administration has been able to reunite just over 50 families.

Lawyers representing those families are hopeful that more will have a similar fate once the administration agrees to allow deported parents to return to the U.S. on a permanent or temporary basis. 

Following a federal court order last year, Seneca Family Agencies, a social services provider, has been coordinating counseling for reunified families. 

Mark Rosenbaum, the lead counsel in the case, told the New York Times that it is extremely evident that these families need mental health services and are “eagerly receiving them.”

The scope of the services is under negotiation as part of the settlement, as is the question of whether or not additional services should be provided.


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