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ACLU tears into Biden for ‘playing politics’ by ending talks over settlements for separated migrants

The ACLU vowed to take Joe Biden’s government ‘back to court’ in a statement provided to DailyMail.com after the civil rights group announced that settlement talks to compensate migrants separated under Donald Trump broke down

The Biden administration is withdrawing from settlement talks to compensate migrant families separated under former President Donald Trump, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed on Thursday.

The civil rights group accused President Joe Biden of ‘playing politics’ for pulling out of the negotiations. 

‘After our government deliberately abused young children by separating them from their families, today they’ve walked away from negotiations to help those who were traumatized heal,’ the ACLU stated on its Twitter account.

‘Candidate Biden promised to help these children and families. But today, President Biden is shamefully playing politics with their lives and futures. We will never forget who takes action to help these families — and who turns their backs on them.’

The government will instead defend itself in individual lawsuits brought forth by the ACLU and other groups on behalf of migrant families rather than distribute class-wide payments. 

His administration’s decision comes after eight months of negotiations and weeks after reports of a proposed settlement that would include payments of several hundred thousand dollars to each family sparked outrage among Biden administration critics in Congress and elsewhere. 

Justice Department officials informed lawyers for the plaintiffs in a conference call that the government would not offer a global settlement in family separation cases and will defend each individual suit in court, Deputy Director for the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project Lee Gelernt said.

‘It would be an understatement to say we are disappointed that the Biden administration allowed politics to get in the way of helping the little children deliberately abused by our government,’ Gelernt said in a statement provided to DailyMail.com by the ACLU.

A migrant rests during their stay at House of the Pilgrim San Juan Diego waiting continue their journey heading to the United States border on December 15

A migrant rests during their stay at House of the Pilgrim San Juan Diego waiting continue their journey heading to the United States border on December 15

About 5,500 children were separated from their parents at the border under Trump's presidency (photo taken at House of the Pilgrim San Juan Diego on December 15)

About 5,500 children were separated from their parents at the border under Trump’s presidency (photo taken at House of the Pilgrim San Juan Diego on December 15)

Reports from October detailed that payments to those who were separated could be as much as $450,000 per person or $1 million per family - and could cost US taxpayers $1 billion or more (picture also taken December 15)

Reports from October detailed that payments to those who were separated could be as much as $450,000 per person or $1 million per family – and could cost US taxpayers $1 billion or more (picture also taken December 15)

He vowed to restart the ACLU’s lawsuits on behalf of migrant families he says were victimized by the United States.  

‘We are going back to court. The trauma inflicted on these children and parents at the hands of our very own government is unfathomable. We need to do the right thing,’ Gelernt said. 

DailyMail.com has reached out to the Justice Department for comment. 

In a statement to NBC, the DOJ said, ‘While the parties have been unable to reach a global settlement agreement at this time, we remain committed to engaging with the plaintiffs and to bringing justice to the victims of this abhorrent policy.’ 

Settlement talks over compensating migrant families for the trauma of being separated at the border were relatively quiet until a report from the Wall Street Journal blasted them wide open.

Reports from October detailed that payments could be as much as $450,000 per person or $1 million per family – and could cost US taxpayers $1 billion or more. 

The federal government reportedly thought the $450,000 payments were a nonstarter but the plaintiffs refused to budge, an official told the Washington Post.

But Zachary Manfredi, litigation director for the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, told the outlet that that’s not the case.

‘Plaintiffs were awaiting the government’s new proposal at the time the government unilaterally withdrew from discussions,’ Manfredi said. 

Biden caught heat from immigrants’ rights groups including the ACLU in November when he dismissed the reported payments as ‘garbage.’

The ACLU first revealed that talks broke down on Thursday afternoon and accused Biden of going back on his promises

The ACLU first revealed that talks broke down on Thursday afternoon and accused Biden of going back on his promises

The White House was forced to walk back the president’s comments, with Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters: ‘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 United States government.’ 

About 5,500 children were forcibly removed from their parents in 2017 and 2018 under President Donald Trump as his administration sought to stop an increase in people crossing the US-Mexico border with criminal prosecutions, even if the migrants were presenting themselves to authorities to seek asylum as permitted under the law.

The parents of hundreds of children have still not been located.

Trump halted the practice in June 2018 amid widespread outrage, including from many Republicans, just six days before a judge ordered an end to the program in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. 

The suits filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act are intended to help compensate families for the psychological damage of the separation, but critics argue it would reward people for illegally crossing the border.

In defending against the suits, the Biden Justice Department will also be defending senior Trump administration officials named individually in the ACLU suit, including former senior adviser Stephen Miller and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

In October when they were first revealed, Arkansas GOP Senator Tom Cotton described the plans as ‘insanity’ while likening the migrants as ‘burglars who broke into a home’.

‘It’s unthinkable to pay a burglar who broke into your home for the ‘psychological trauma’ they endured during the crime. Yet the Biden admin wants to reward migrants who illegally entered our country with up to $450,000 each for just that reason. Insanity,’ Cotton wrote on Twitter.

Fellow Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack shared Cotton’s view.

‘Insanity. Rewarding illegal immigrants with hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars is the ULTIMATE insult to law-abiding citizens. President Biden wants to send the IRS to surveil your bank account while cutting checks—with your money—to people who’ve broken our laws,’ Womack said.

Michigan Rep. Tim Wahlberg said it was ‘pure madness and an insult to hardworking taxpayers.’

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the reported payments were ‘a slap in the face.’

‘The Biden administration is reportedly looking to pay $450,000 to illegal immigrants who knowingly broke the law. It’s a slap in the face to our law-abiding citizens who wake up, go to work, and pay their taxes,’ he tweeted at the time.

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