WH: Biden 'perfectly comfortable' with DOJ settling with illegal migrants separated at border

Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds briefing amid battle over social spending spree

The White House on Thursday said President Biden is “perfectly comfortable” with the Department of Justice (DOJ) settling with illegal migrants separated from their families under the Trump administration.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made the comment in response to Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy after Biden Wednesday told Doocy that reports of his administration offering up to $450,000 to illegal migrants are “garbage” and “not gonna happen.”

During the Thursday briefing, Doocy asked Jean-Pierre to address a statement from ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, who said after Biden’s denial that 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.”

“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,” Jean-Pierre said, adding that the DOJ “can obviously speak more to that process.”

Jean-Pierre went on to say that Biden’s response to Doocy’s question on Wednesday was in reference to the specific dollar amount the plaintiffs stand to receive. “DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land,” she said.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

When pressed to clarify further, Jean-Pierre blamed the Trump administration for creating the situation.

“First of all, let’s remember how we got here, how we got to a place where we’re dealing with families being separated,” she said, describing the Trump administration’s immigration policies as cruel, inhuman and immoral.

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

President Biden speaks about the authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus Nov. 03, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Jean-Pierre concluded by taking a question from a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, which was the first outlet to report about the possible payments to illegal migrants last week. 

Jean-Pierre affirmed the president’s belief that the DOJ should maintain its independence when asked whether Biden was briefed by the DOJ regarding the settlement discussions and whether it was appropriate for him to weigh in on the matter.

A pair of migrant families from Brazil pass through a gap in the border wall to reach the United States after crossing from Mexico to Yuma, Ariz., to seek asylum in June 2021. 
(AP Photo/Eugene Garcia, File)

“He was asked a question, and he answered it directly,” Jean-Pierre said. “That’s it. He was asked a question, and he answered it. I mean, there’s nothing much more to add to that. Any more specifics, I would send you to the Department of Justice.”

Fox News’ David Spunt contributed to this report.

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