Former President Donald Trump slammed the Biden administration Friday over a report it was considering paying out hundreds of millions of dollars to illegal immigrant families who were separated at the US-Mexico border under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy in 2018.
“It’s not even believable what they’re doing,” the 45th president told the “Clay Travis & Buck Sexton” radio show. “It’s not even believable.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services were discussing the payments in a bid to settle lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others on behalf of families who illegally crossed into the US from Mexico to seek asylum.
“One of the things we were doing is separation, which was done before us,” Trump explained. “But ‘separation,’ when people heard that, they didn’t come because if a parent hears they’re gonna be separated, they didn’t come. [That’s] one of the reasons I was so successful at the border.”
The plaintiffs claim children who were taken from their parents and placed in government holding facilities suffered physical and mental trauma. Trump halted family separations by executive order in June 2018, though he did not formally end the “zero tolerance” policy inaugurated by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that April.
The Journal reported that around 940 claims have been filed in connection with the Trump policy and that the settlement offer being mooted by the Biden administration averages out to around $450,000 per person and close to $1 million per family.
“When you look at what they’re doing at the border, there’s never been anything like it,” the former president added. “The greatest we’ve ever had went to the worst — probably one of the worst in the history of the world, because no country can sustain what’s happening to our country.”
The Journal’s report emerged days after US Customs and Border Protection announced it had recorded more than 1.7 million encounters with illegal border crossers in the previous 12 months, the highest number on record. Trump claimed without evidence on Friday that countries are “emptying their prisons into the United States. We’ve become a dumping ground, and it’s a very, very sad thing.”
“And you have big caravans coming up. You have tough caravans,” the former president added. “They went right through the Mexican police like it was butter. We better stop ’em. That’s all I can tell you. We’re taking in millions of people into our country illegally, and these people are rough people. Many of them are rough, rough people.”
Congressional Republicans expressed outrage over the Journal’s report, with nearly four dozen GOP lawmakers warning the White House in a letter Friday that the payments would “incentivize migrants from more than 150 nations across the world to surge our border.”
The rationale for this egregious abuse of taxpayer dollars is to compensate these persons for ‘lasting psychological trauma.’ Do, however, note that these persons crossed into our country in a knowingly illegal manner, fully aware of the consequences of violating our rule of law,” they wrote.
“Actions have consequences, especially illegal actions made consciously. We are a nation of laws, and our laws must be enforced. Promising tens of thousands of dollars to those who unlawfully entered the United States would not only reward criminal behavior, but it would surely send a message to the world that our borders are open, and our rule of law will not be enforced.”
Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, described the reported settlement offer as “unacceptable” in a Fox News interview Friday morning.
“They’ve unleashed the worst border crisis in more than 30 years,” Pence told “Fox & Friends” of the Biden administration. “And it’s all been because of dismantling policies that were working, but also sending a message south of the border — that America’s borders are open to people coming north and entering our country illegally or abusing our asylum system.”
The White House and Department of Homeland Security referred requests for comment to the Department of Justice. The DOJ declined to comment when contacted by The Post Friday.