(NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden said Saturday that families who were separated at the U.S. border were wronged, and deserve compensation. But how much they’ll get, and whether it will happen soon, are still up in the air.
It’s also not a political layup.
“If we’re going to compensate anyone, let’s start compensating the U.S. citizens that have been killed at the hands of illegal aliens,” former ICE special agent Victor Avila said Monday on NewsNation’s “The Donlon Report.”
Still, advocates for immigrants argue asylum seekers have the right to cross the border to request help, and the Trump administration did not have to process them as criminals.
Crossing the border illegally, however, is a federal misdemeanor.
About 5,500 children were split from their parents under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, under which parents were separated from their children to face criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally, according to court filings in a federal case in San Diego. Inadequate tracking systems caused many to be apart for an extended time. The payments are intended to compensate for the psychological trauma.
“If, in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you coming across the border, whether it was legally or illegally, and you lost your child — you lost your child. (Your child) is gone — you deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstance,” Biden said on Saturday. “What that will be I have no idea. I have no idea.”
Previous reports indicated it could creep near $450,000, but nothing has been set in stone. The Justice Department may be worried it could lose a lawsuit if it’s taken to court over the separation tactic and be forced to pay more.
“They get to that number because you have severe psychological trauma,” immigration attorney David Leopold said Monday on “The Donlon Report.” “You have, you know, trauma and damage that no money amount is ever going to compensate.”
But it’s unlikely anyone will go to jail.
“They’re covered by all kinds of immunity, so no, they’re not going to be criminally prosecuted,” Leopold said. “It’s immoral, it’s a stain on this country, and it’s child abuse.”
Still, critics like Avila argue this is not a permanent solution to the border crisis. The possibility of a six-figure payment may even encourage more people to try to get across, or could be misconstrued through misinformation.
“(Biden) needs to acknowledge the chaos that he’s created at the border,” Avila said. “And if he wants to end this, he needs to take a look at the border, and finally do some real border security enforcement when it’s wide open right now.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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