President Biden on Saturday said that illegal immigrants who were separated during the Trump administration "deserve some kind of compensation," although he has "no idea" what the dollar amount would be – days after he called reports of $450,000 payments "garbage."
"If, in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you coming across the border, whether it was legal or illegal and you lost your child, you lost your child, he’s gone, you deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstance."
"What that will be, I have no idea. I have no idea," he said.
Biden was clarifying remarks he made days earlier, where he described reports of a plan to give up to $450,000 per person to illegal immigrants who were separated under the Trump administration as "garbage."
"That’s not going to happen," he said on Wednesday.
On Saturday, however, he made it clear that he did in fact support such payments, but said it was "the number I was referring to" when he called the reports "garbage."
The Wall Street Journal first reported last week that the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are considering the payments in response to a lawsuit by civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, over the Trump-era "zero tolerance" policy. It could potentially mean payments of nearly $1 million per family, although the Journal noted that some families could see considerably less.
The reports drew outrage from Republicans, who saw the payments as both rewarding illegal behavior and as yet another incentive for more migrants to make the journey to the U.S. illegally, exacerbating the ongoing crisis at the southern border.
"The Biden administration’s proposed $1 billion taxpayer-funded payout to illegal immigrants will certainly incentivize additional illegal immigration," Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, led by Ranking Member Jim Jordan, said in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday.
"This sort of action is exactly the wrong message the administration should send at this time," they wrote.
Biden’s initial dismissal of the payments on Wednesday drew a rebuke from the ACLU, who said Biden "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."
On Thursday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre moved to clean up Biden's remarks, saying that Biden "is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with individuals and families currently in litigation with the U.S. government." However, she said the Justice Department had told plaintiffs that the reported $450K figure is "higher than anywhere that a settlement can land."
The Justice Department did not comment to Fox News on the matter. However, a person with knowledge of the settlements told Fox that the $450,000 figure is "too high and inaccurate."
On Thursday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley on Thursday also wrote to Garland, calling on the Justice Department to clarify its stance amid the confusion.
"What’s going on? Do you intend to stand with the ACLU and go forward with these massive settlement payments? Or have you complied with President Biden’s instruction and decided to seek settlement amounts for illegal aliens that the White House finds more politically palatable," they asked.
"Where is the Department of Justice?" they ask. "This matter demands clarification."
Meanwhile, Republicans in both the House and Senate introduced bills that would block the Department of Justice from making any such settlement to illegal immigrants arising with them crossing illegally into the United States.