116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The end of the year brought several Iowa politicians touting their accomplishments in 2021. U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson tweeted Dec. 28: “This year I helped lead the charge against the Administration’s proposal to pay some illegal immigrants $450,000 after they broke our laws.”
The 1st District Republican representative’s tweet linked to a Nov. 3 opinion piece she wrote in the Washington Times. In it, Hinson said she was “disturbed, but frankly unsurprised” to learn the Biden administration “has a plan in the works to pay individuals who tried to enter our country illegally $450,000 — each.” The payouts could cost nearly $1 billion, Hinson said.
Hinson does not mention in her opinion piece what the payouts would be for, and the only hyperlinks in the online story go to the Times’ collection of other stories about the Biden administration.
Hinson’s staff told the Fact Checker she was referring to discussions underway in late October, and reported Oct. 28 by the Wall Street Journal, for the U.S. Justice Department to offer settlements of as much as $450,000 to people who filed lawsuits over children being separated from their families at the U.S. border with Mexico during President Donald Trump’s administration.
More than 2,700 children were removed from their families at the border in 2018, CNN reported, with some kids as young as 8 months kept at shelters for days or weeks without knowing why they weren’t allowed to see their parents or having any idea when they would be reunited. The “zero tolerance policy” was implemented because children could not be incarcerated with their parents, so instead were sent to detention centers across the southern part of the United States.
A 2019 Health and Human Services inspector general report said staff at detention centers reported some children cried inconsolably.
“According to program directors and mental health clinicians, separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress than did children who were not separated,” the report states. In another report, HHS found the Trump administration lacked the technology to keep track of separated families.
The Trump administration reversed the policy in June 2018 after a backlash by lawmakers and citizens.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in 2019 on behalf of separated families. It’s that class action suit and other lawsuits brought by migrant families the Justice Department was attempting to settle with the payments, which would have ranged in size with many people getting far less than the maximum, CNN reported.
When the Wall Street Journal story broke, White House officials said the $450,000 number reported was “higher than the settlement could land,” the Washington Post reported.
Hinson joined more than 180 other House Republicans who co-sponsored legislation that would prohibit the settlement payments to the immigrants.
Payment talks were scuttled in December after criticism by lawmakers and citizens. A federal judge on Dec. 16 lifted a hold order that had been in place while settlement talks were ongoing, signaling negotiations now are off, court records show.
“The Admin backed down, but I’ll continue holding them accountable for policies that put Americans & Iowans last,” Hinson tweeted.
Hinson wasn’t the only member of Congress 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. This is unbelievable."
PolitiFact gave that claim a “half-true” on Oct. 28.
The Fact Checker is leaning this direction. While Hinson is correct the administration was considering hefty settlements for separated families, both her opinion piece and the tweet left out why the payments were being considered.
The payments were meant to settle lawsuits brought because of trauma suffered by migrant children when they were separated from their parents. The Justice Department can’t ignore the lawsuits and, like with any court proceeding, the government perhaps could be forced to pay more if cases go to trial.
She gets a C.
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 email@example.com.
Members of the Fact Checker team are Erin Jordan, Michaela Ramm and Marissa Payne. This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.
Support for the Fact Checker Podcast is provided by New Pioneer Food Co-op. Celebrating 50 years as Eastern Iowa’s source for locally and responsibly sourced groceries with stores in Iowa City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids; and online through Co-op Cart at https://www.newpi.coop/.