Fact Checker

Fact Checker: Ashley Hinson targets immigration law after Cedar Rapids police ride-along

Republican U.S. House candidate Ashley Hinson addresses members of the press during a July 28 visit to the HACAP Food Re
Republican U.S. House candidate Ashley Hinson addresses members of the press during a July 28 visit to the HACAP Food Reservoir in Hiawatha. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson, who is running this fall for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District against Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer, shared in a Sept. 23 Facebook post her experience doing a ride-along with a Cedar Rapids police sergeant:

“During the ride, we encountered everything from a vehicle running a stop sign, a mental health and wellness check, and a man who became violent and later was deemed as an illegal immigrant,” Hinson wrote. “It was eye opening for me to see this first hand, that right here, in our own backyards, an illegal immigrant was jeopardizing the safety of our officers and our community.”

Hinson then took aim at her opponent’s voting record on legislation pertaining to local governments’ enforcement of federal immigration law.

Graded a B

“In the legislature, I voted against sanctuary cities because I want to protect our communities. Congresswoman Finkenauer voted for sanctuary cities in the Iowa house,” Hinson wrote. “That is unacceptable to me and a clear difference in this race. I will never be too politically correct to do the right thing to keep our kids and our communities safe.”


The Fact Checker requested the Cedar Rapids Police Department calls for service from Hinson’s Sept. 22 ride-along. Public safety spokesperson Greg Buelow identified Sgt. Randy Reck as the officer Hinson rode with.

Records and Buelow confirm there was a stop sign violation, a mental health crisis and a violent episode that involved a suspected undocumented immigrant.

According to that male subject’s boss, Buelow said, the roofing employee refused to work and would not leave the hotel where the contractors were staying. Hotel staff warned him against trespassing as he was no longer allowed there.


When officers went to the SureStay Hotel, 3315 Southgate Court SW, hotel staff indicated they wanted the man charged.

“When officers attempted to take the individual into custody, he started to fight with the officers,” Buelow said. “Officers deployed a Taser as he continued to resist.” Court records show he eventually was arrested on trespass and interference with official acts counts.

The individual was taken to the Linn County Jail, Buelow said, were Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a hold on him.

During her ride-along with Reck, Hinson did witness a stop sign violation, mental health check and an incident in which an individual who was found to be undocumented became physical with police officers. We give her account so far an A.

Next, we’ll examine Hinson’s claims on the “sanctuary” cities votes.

Hinson’s campaign tied the claim that Finkenauer voted in favor of sanctuary cities to Senate File 481, a 2018 bill to pull state funding from local governments that do not cooperate with federal agents enforcing immigration laws and do not comply with federal immigration detainer requests. according to Gazette reports and the text of the bill.

It’s true that Finkenauer, then a state representative, voted against the bill and that Hinson voted in favor it, which later was signed into law.

While it’s dubbed the “sanctuary cities” bill, the word “sanctuary” does not appear in the text. Opponents of the bill say there are no sanctuary cities in Iowa.

The Des Moines Register reported in 2018 the bill was intended to encompass cities that “prohibit or discourage the enforcement of immigration laws,” with Republican lawmakers particularly taking aim at Johnson County.


The Iowa City Council in January 2017 unanimously backed a resolution declaring the city would not commit local resources or take law enforcement action toward federal immigration law, making exceptions for violent offenders or cases of public safety.

The resolution, however, does not limit or prohibit federal officials’ enforcement of immigration law in Iowa City. Nor does it affect ICE’s Priority Enforcement Program, which requires fingerprints of those arrested to be sent to ICE.

The Johnson County sheriff and Board of Supervisors within two months issued a statement that the sheriff would not honor voluntary detainer requests nor assist ICE in raids, The Gazette reported.

The statement does not “preclude county offices in assisting or participating in lawful warrants and criminal investigations,” nor does it “preclude Department of Homeland Security grant-procured items from being used as required by law.”

Several Iowa sheriffs have said they’ll honor detainer requests if signed by a judge or magistrate, but not only by an ICE agent.

Immigration detainers are requests from federal agents for local authorities to continue holding in jail potential undocumented immigrants who otherwise might have satisfied other requirements to be released.

Some Iowa sheriffs argued the 2018 bill opens them and their communities to lawsuits.

Finkenauer, speaking about her vote against the legislation in a September debate with Hinson, said she took into account law enforcement officials’ stances: “They said that that bill that came up was going to cause so much fear in their communities that when there were folks who are scared or wanted to report something that they wouldn’t do it and it would actually make things worse for their communities,” the Register reported.

As evidence supporting the position that a vote against the sanctuary cities bill keeps communities safe, the Hinson campaign pointed to a Fox News article on a Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report.


The report states that “because ICE relies on cooperation from other law enforcement agencies, ICE sometimes faces challenges apprehending aliens in uncooperative jurisdictions” — which ICE defines as state and local law enforcement agencies or facilities that do not fully cooperate with detainers. The report says this risks those individuals committing more crimes and putting public safety at risk.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says the law makes it clear that immigration detainers are not mandatory. And according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, courts have ruled “the Fourth Amendment is violated because ICE fails to demonstrate probable cause before issuing detainer forms. Fourth and Fifth Amendments are also violated because ICE fails to provide a notice of the detainer before it is issued.”

Further, the outcomes of federal programs intended to strengthen partnerships with local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law are ambiguous.

PolitiFact looked at a September 2016 claim by then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that the President George Bush-era Secure Communities program and 287(g) programs were “recklessly gutted” by the Obama administration, and that “those programs worked.”

PolitiFact cites ICE data from October 2008 to February 2015. ICE reported it removed 406,441 people from the country — including 135,726 criminal aliens convicted of Level 1 offenses, like murder, rape and sexual abuse of a minor.

Rating the claim “half true,” PolitiFact concludes that “while the programs have removed criminals from streets, they’ve also involved unlawful practices.”


Hinson gave an accurate summary of incidents she witnessed in her Sept. 22 ride-along with a police sergeant, but her claim that communities are safer because of her vote on the 2018 bill is more muddied. While partnerships with municipalities have removed some immigrants convicted of violent crimes from the streets, the courts have found that detainers violate constitutional rights. Her claims are otherwise solid, so we give Hinson’s overall post a B.


The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.

Claims must be independently verifiable.

We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

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

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Marissa Payne.

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