The Biden administration was supposed to be a level-headed and humane retort to Trump-era cruelty on immigration.

Instead, the president is backing down to the most cynical and cruel voices, and the U.S. is once again failing to live up to its ideals.

The administration last week pulled out of negotiations over financial compensation for the migrant families harmed by the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the border — an utterly inhumane practiced that terrified and traumatized thousands.

The move came after a leak in October suggested each family may get as much as $450,000. President Biden initially called the report “garbage,” but his office then walked those comments back.

The response from conservatives was as inflammatory as it was predictable. They didn’t care about the fate of these families when President Trump was ripping them apart, and they don’t care about them now.

But they know how to turn a story about compensating people for harm the government has done to them into one about how the president is paying off  “illegal aliens.”

Biden shouldn’t have been surprised by theses tactics, and he should have been ready to plow forward regardless of them. Instead, he caved.

“Obviously the Biden administration is caving to political pressure on immigration again instead of keeping its promise to do right by these families,” Ann Garcia, a lawyer for several of the families, told the New York Times.

Not exactly what we had in mind when Biden previously promised to address this “moral and national shame.”

Announced in 2018, but possibly in play before then, the child separation policy from the Trump administration called for the criminal prosecution of every person who crossed the border illegally, a misdemeanor.

When it came to families, parents were put in prison while children, including infants, went to shelters or foster homes.

More than 5,000 families were torn apart, with little children taken from their parent’s arms, or stolen by the federal government while they were in court or receiving care. The parents were given few explanations and told little about where their children were going or how they could get them back.

In the time they were separated, some of the kids forgot their parents. Officials lost track of parents, too, making reunification difficult: the government still cannot find 270 parents.

It was state-sponsored cruelty. By national and international law, it was tantamount to the torture and disappearances the U.S. condemns in other nations. It has left the children and their parents traumatized.

Now, with the Biden administration no longer at the negotiating table, those families will have to seek remedies through the courts. They may ultimately get them.

But in ending the talks, and giving in to the cruelty of his opponents, the president has missed an opportunity to atone for our country’s actions, and show it can live up to its ideals.

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