White House won't say if migrants who chose to leave children behind in US will be paid for family separation

Karine Jean-Pierre holds daily White House briefing

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday refused to answer any questions about the Department of Justice (DOJ) considering payments to illegal immigrants separated from their families under the Trump administration.

During the White House daily press briefing, Jean-Pierre was asked by Fox News’ Peter Doocy who would qualify as “separated,” and whether illegals who were separated from their families for only a couple hours or days would qualify for compensation from the U.S. government.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on Nov. 5, 2021 in Washington, D.C. 
(Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

“So, Peter, I will direct you to the Department of Justice for any specifics on that,” Jean-Pierre responded. “You’ve asked us this question. We have answered it. And I will refer you to the Department of Justice on any specifics.”

Doocy pushed back, asking, “Going back to 2018, some illegal immigrants were given a choice, get deported alone or get deported with their kids. If somebody chose to be separated, chose to go back by themselves without their family, would they be eligible to settle one of these lawsuits?”

“Peter, I’m going to refer you to Department of Justice,” Jean-Pierre replied. “I don’t have anything more to say. And I’m going to move on, OK? All right. Thank you.”

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden return to the White House on Nov. 8, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Wall Street Journal originally reported last month that payments of “around $450,000 a person in compensation” could be issued to immigrants affected by Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy in an effort “to resolve lawsuits filed on behalf of parents and children who say the government subjected them to lasting psychological trauma.”

Biden on Wednesday told Doocy that reports of his administration offering up to $450,000 are “garbage” and “not gonna happen,” prompting a response by ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, who said the president “may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department as it carefully deliberated and considered the crimes committed against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional governmental policy.”

Jean-Pierre previously explained that Biden’s response to Doocy’s question was in reference to the specific dollar amount the plaintiffs stand to receive. 

“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 individuals and families who are currently in litigation with the U.S. government,” she said.

U.S. Border Patrol agents capture a migrant near the U.S. and Mexico border fence in Calexico, California, on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. 
(Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Jean-Pierre also referred any further questions to the DOJ, which has continued to decline Fox News’ requests for comment, citing pending litigation.

The DOJ again did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment on Monday.

Fox News’ Jon Brown contributed to this report.

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