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Oct. 28, 2021, 4:28 p.m. EDT

U.S. government in financial-settlement talks with families separated at southern border

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Michelle Hackman, Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is in talks to offer immigrant families that were separated during the Trump administration around $450,000 a person in compensation, according to people familiar with the matter, as several agencies work to resolve lawsuits filed on behalf of parents and children who say the government subjected them to  lasting psychological trauma .

The U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are considering payments that could amount to close to $1 million a family, though the final numbers could shift, the people familiar with the matter said. Most of the families that crossed the border illegally from Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S. included one parent and one child, the people said. Many families would likely get smaller payouts, depending on their circumstances, the people said.

From the archives (April 2021): Biden’s task force identifies more than 3,900 children separated from families at the border under Trump; ACLU has put the number at 5,500

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents families in one of the lawsuits, has identified about 5,500 children separated at the border over the course of the Trump administration, citing figures provided to it by the government. The number of families eligible under the potential settlement is expected to be smaller, the people said, as government officials aren’t sure how many will come forward. Around 940 claims have so far been filed by the families, the people said. The total potential payout could be $1 billion or more.

From the archives (November 2018): Family separations at border started months earlier than announced

As part of a so-called zero-tolerance enforcement policy, immigration agents  separated thousands of children , ranging from infants to teenagers, from their parents at the southern border in 2018 after they had crossed illegally from Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S. In some cases families were forcefully broken up with no provisions to track and later reunite them, government investigations found. The lawsuits allege some of the children suffered from a range of ailments, including heat exhaustion and malnutrition, and were kept in freezing cold rooms and provided little medical attention.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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