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Settlement talks between the Biden administration and lawyers on behalf of families separated under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border have broken down, according to the ACLU.
“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,” lead ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
The families will head back to court for further litigation with the government.
ABC News previously reported on the possibility of settlement payments to families but noted at the time that any dollar figures were in flux. The Wall Street Journal first reported on possible payments totaling as much as $450,000 per family member.
The ACLU’s Lee Gelernt said the government didn’t offer an explanation as to why it walked away from the negotiating table.
According to the Washington Post, which first reported the news of the breakdown in talks, lawyers for the families refused to budge from the reported $450,000 per person figure.
“That is absolutely false,” Gelernt said. “The government walked away without asking us for an offer or making one.”
Gelernt said he believes the negotiations were ended for political reasons.
“That’s not going to happen,” President Joe Biden said in response to a question about the plans at a press conference in November.
He called the Wall Street Journal report “garbage,” but later backtracked, noting he would be open to some form of financial compensation for the victims and had been objecting to the $450,000 figure.
The Biden administration’s task force to reunite families has identified nearly 4,000 family members that were separated by the Trump administration. As many as 5,500 children are believed to have been separated from their families, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The government failed to track the families despite assurances from Trump administration officials at the time. At the beginning of 2021, the government had not made contact with the parents of some 600 children.