Fact Checker: Hinson omits migrant payment details

U.S. Representative for the First District Ashley Hinson speaks September 8, 2021 during a town hall at Kirkwood Community College in Southwest Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The end of the year brought several Iowa politicians touting their accomplishments in 2021. U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson tweeted Dec. 28, “This year I helped lead the charge against the administration’s proposal to pay $450,000 to certain illegal immigrants after they broke our laws.

The Republican Rep. 1st District’s tweet linked to a Nov. 3 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Times. In it, Hinson said she was “disturbed, but frankly not surprised” to learn that the Biden administration “has a plan underway to pay people who tried to illegally enter our country $450,000. – each”. The payments could cost nearly $1 billion, Hinson said.

Hinson does not mention in his op-ed what the payments would be used for, and the only hyperlinks in the online story go to The Times’ collection of other stories about the Biden administration.

To analyse

Hinson’s staff told the fact checker that she was referring to ongoing discussions in late October and reported October 28 by the Wall Street Journal, for the US Department of Justice to propose settlements of up to $450,000 to those who sued children separated from their families at the US border with Mexico during the administration of President Donald Trump.

More than 2,700 children were taken from their families at the border in 2018, CNN reported, with some children as young as 8 months old kept in shelters for days or weeks without knowing why they weren’t allowed to see their parents or without knowing when they would be reunited. The “zero tolerance policy” was implemented because the children could not be incarcerated with their parents, so they were instead sent to detention centers in the southern United States.

A 2019 report by the Inspector General of Health and Social Services said staff at detention centers reported that some children were crying inconsolably.

“According to program directors and mental health clinicians, separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress than children who were not separated,” the report said. In another report, HHS found that the Trump administration lacked the technology to track separated families.

The Trump administration reversed the policy in June 2018 after a backlash from lawmakers and citizens.

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in 2019 on behalf of the separated families. It was this class action and other lawsuits brought by migrant families that the Justice Department was trying to settle with the payments, which would have varied in size, with many people receiving far less than the maximum, CNN reported.

When the Wall Street Journal story broke, White House officials said the reported $450,000 figure was “higher than the settlement could land,” The Washington Post reported.

Hinson joined more than 180 other House Republicans who have co-sponsored legislation banning settlement payments to immigrants.

Payment talks were scuttled in December after criticism from lawmakers and citizens. On Dec. 16, a federal judge lifted a freeze order that was in place while settlement talks were underway, signaling that negotiations are now complete, according to court records.

“The admin backed down, but I will continue to hold them accountable for policies that put Americans and Iowans last,” Hinson tweeted.


Hinson was not the only congressman to speak out against the proposed settlements. Republican Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin tweeted that “Our border is wide open and now (President Joe) Biden is in talks to pay illegal immigrants $450,000. It’s incredible.”

PolitiFact gave this claim a “half true” on October 28.

The Fact Checker leans in that direction. Although Hinson was right that the administration was considering onerous settlements for separated families, his opinion piece and tweet left out why the payments were being considered.

The payments were intended to settle lawsuits brought over trauma suffered by migrant children when separated from their parents. The Justice Department cannot ignore lawsuits and, as with any legal proceeding, the government may be forced to pay more if the cases go to trial.

She gets a C.


The Fact Checker team verifies statements made by an Iowa political candidate/leader or national candidate/leader about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our marketplace.

Claims must be independently verifiable. We assign statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim that you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

The members of the Fact Checker team are Erin Jordan, Michaela Ramm and Marissa Payne. This fact checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.

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