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DOJ Says Families Separated at Border Don't Deserve Compensation

Two months after President Biden said migrant families separated at the border under the Trump administration deserve compensation, administration lawyers are arguing in federal court that they are not in fact entitled to financial damages and their cases should be dismissed, the Washington Post reports. The Justice Department outlined its position in the government’s first court filings since settlement negotiations that could have awarded families hundreds of thousands of dollars broke down in mid-December. Government lawyers emphasized that they do not condone the Trump administration’s policy of separating the children of undocumented migrants from their parents. They said the U.S. government has a good deal of leeway when it comes to managing immigration and is immune from many legal challenges. Once he became president, Biden’s Justice Department negotiated with the families’ lawyers for eight months in an effort to settle the families’ legal claims. Talks stalled last month after the Wall Street Journal reported that the government was in talks to pay individuals as much as $450,000 each. The Biden administration is in an awkward position as it shifts from championing migrant families politically to fighting them in court. Migrant families have filed some 20 lawsuits and hundreds of administrative claims seeking compensation for the emotional and sometimes physical abuse they allege they suffered during the separations. The motions to dismiss the cases were filed in a pair of lawsuits in Pennsylvania and California. Lawyers for the families said they expect the Justice Department to take a similar stance in other cases. “The moment they said they were going to back away from settlement negotiations, this is where they were headed,” said Conchita Cruz of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, which is representing migrants in similar lawsuits. “If the government wants to actually win these cases, then they do have to argue that the families aren’t eligible. That’s what is so shocking.”

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