According to CBS News, talks regarding compensating families separated at the border have halted as of December 2021.
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January 2021 marked a joyous occasion for many immigrants seeking refuge in the United States. With the exit of President Trump came the denouncement of Trump's Zero Tolerance Policy. Under such a policy, individuals illegally immigrating to the U.S. were imprisoned; meanwhile, their children were sent to different federal facilities, says The Washington Post. Such containments had to abide by the human standards set forth by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. These standards indicated that children must have "access to food and water, emergency medical services, bathroom facilities, ventilated, temperature-controlled surroundings." Despite that, the cages provided deplorable living conditions for the detained children. According to the Marshall Project, nearly 500 million kids were detained during the Trump administration, with over 40% of them being held longer than the 72-hour limit set forth. During his time in office, the Trump administration separated more than 5,000 families, actions that outraged millions of Americans and prompted multiple lawsuits. The issue has persisted, however, into the Biden Administration. A massive spike in immigration from Latin America has taken place since the inauguration of President Biden. More than 2,000 children are being held for processing at one camp in Texas. There have been reports of disease, unsanitary food conditions and uncooked meat, COVID and lice outbreaks, a lack of clean clothes, and cases of sexual assault.
Publicly, President Biden has long been opposed to the Zero Tolerance Policy, speaking actively against it all along his campaign trail against Trump. Between Trump's departure and Biden's entrance, more than 100 family members sought legal compensation for the psychological trauma inflicted upon them and their children throughout the process, says Lee Gelernt, a lawyer of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In October 2021, rumors suggested the Biden administration may compensate separated families upwards of $450,000. However, later in the year, Biden reportedly stated that $450,000 per person was not feasible but that he did want the Department of Justice to settle with the families affected.
Biden has come head to head with other lawmakers, primarily Republicans, who feel infuriated at the prospect of providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to immigrants, funds they feel would encourage illegal immigration rather than hinder it.
In a statement to Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said, "As you can imagine, many Americans think it is a pretty outrageous idea to offer massive taxpayer-funded payments to illegal immigrants who broke our laws." Additionally, he noted that families of servicemen dying in the line of duty receive only $100,000 compensation.
An attorney from the National Immigration Litigation Alliance, Trina Realmuto, told CBS, "We are extremely disappointed that the negotiations have terminated and that the administration is walking away from its campaign promise to provide families with some measure of justice."
Other civil rights and migrant support groups are also upset about the stop in compensation opportunities. Kathryn Hampton, deputy director of the Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Program, said, "While the U.S. can never undo what happened, we expected the Biden administration to engage in good faith with efforts for redress and repair... the cruelty of intentionally tearing families apart inflicted unspeakable and permanent trauma on children and their parents coming to the U.S. border seeking safety."
Though large sums of money have been essentially taken off the table, President Biden still has his task force at work, seeking to reunite separated families. As of December, the task force reunited 86 families and 300+ children, and the findings are growing. The administration is still looking to reunite families and seek justice for those mistreated, including the possibility of legal status for some separated families.