The Biden administration could pay out up to $1 billion to immigrant families that were separated at the U.S. Mexico border during the Trump administration. 

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According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services could end up paying out close to $1 million per immigrant family that were separated at the border. Sources told WSJ that around $450,000 a person is being considered, but could change depending on each family’s circumstances. 

Discussions of payouts have taken place over the course of the past few months between lawyers representing immigrant families that are suing the federal government and the government’s own lawyers, according to WSJ. Some government lawyers apparently viewed the payout amounts as excessive.

Margo Schlanger, DHS officer for civil rights and civil liberties during the Obama administration, told WSJ, “Damage class actions in this kind of case are pretty rare, it’s hard to think of a recent comparison.”


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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing multiple families in a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy. In January, it issued a statement urging the incoming Biden administration to act quickly on the issue. 

“The incoming administration must reunite the separated families in the United States, but we cannot stop there. These families deserve citizenship, resources, care, and a commitment that family separation will never happen again.” 

Since assuming office, the Biden administration created the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families and its latest progress report, released in September, confirmed it had reunified 50 children separated from their parents and provided access to behavioral health services. Another 2,171 children have been reunified through a court order and from the efforts of non-governmental organizations. 

However, the same report confirmed 1,727 children have not yet been reunified with their families, accounting for 33 percent of all those identified as separated from their parents by DHS under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. 

The ACLU is still battling its lawsuit with the Biden administration and according to WSJ, not all the families it’s representing will be eligible for a potential financial settlement.

The Office of the Inspector General conducted a review of the DOJ’s zero tolerance policy and found that under former attorney general Jeff Sessions, the agency “failed to effectively prepare for, or manage, the implementation of the zero tolerance policy.”


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