The Trump administration blocked the Justice Department from making a deal in October 2019 that would have paid for mental health care for families separated at the border.

Por Alma Sacasa
Noviembre 20, 2020

According to a new report from NBC News, the White House blocked the Justice Department from making a deal in October 2019 that would have paid for mental health services for migrant families who had been separated at the border by the Trump administration. The refusal, detailed by four anonymous officials (two current and two former), cost taxpayers $6 million.

The officials said the Office of White House Counsel made the decision to reject the settlement of a federal lawsuit at the request of senior adviser Stephen Miller, who is the mastermind behind many of the Trump administration's most notorious immigration policies. "DOJ strongly, and unanimously, supported the settlement, but not all agencies involved were on the same page," one official said. "Ultimately, the settlement was declined at the direction of the White House counsel's office."

Stephen Miller
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Ultimately, it was Stephen who prevailed," added a second official. "He squashed it." A White House official contacted about the report denied that Miller had anything to do with the rejection. "Mr. Miller was not involved, and any suggestion that he was is false," they stated.

Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the pro bono public interest law firm Public Counsel, said that lawyers representing migrant families and Justice Department lawyers had agreed on an $8 million settlement for counseling migrants after nine months of negotiations. "Many of these children thought their parents had deliberately abandoned them," he said. "The longer that trauma goes unredressed, the more severe the consequences. We had a deal, a good deal. Everybody was feeling good about where we were. Then they came back and said no."

Migrant families
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According to NBC, lawyers for the DOJ took the settlement proposal to the White House, who then rejected the offer. Rejecting the settlement led to an even longer delay in providing services to separated families, some of which had already been deported by the time an agreement was reached.

"When the settlement failed to get approval, my first thought was of the lost time," said Amy Lally, one of the lawyers representing the families. "The months spent negotiating the proposed settlement were months that mothers and children and families continued to suffer, without redress, from the trauma imposed by the government."