Fact check: More money spent on housing National Guard in DC than shelter for migrants

Chelsey Cox, USA TODAY
·6 min read

The claim: The government spent nothing on housing for National Guard troops but millions on shelter for migrants

The influx of migrants crossing the southern border has become a focal point of President Joe Biden's administration. The president has received criticism for extending former President Donald Trump's policy to house unaccompanied migrant children in what some view as close quarters, USA TODAY reported.

A March 24 Facebook post suggests a disproportionate amount is being spent to house the migrants — called "illegal immigrants" in the meme. It compares a cost estimate to "free" housing for National Guard troops deployed in Washington after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Two sentences overlaid on a picture of guard troops sleeping in a parking deck and a stock image of a hotel room state "Housing for National Guard - No Cost. Housing for Illegal Immigrants - $86.9 million. Any questions?"

The decision to temporarily camp troops in a parking garage was heavily criticized by members of Congress, USA TODAY reported. Facebook user Doug Treff took credit for creating the meme, in response to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Evidence shows the government outsourced migrant housing to a nonprofit. But the claim inaccurately states that guard troops received no adequate housing while stationed in Washington.

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Claim gets migrant housing costs right

The Department of Homeland Security signed an $86.9 million contract with a nonprofit arm of Endeavors, a faith-based family reunification organization, to provide temporary shelter for the migrants placed in immigration proceedings for eventual removal from the U.S., according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tae Johnson.

"The $86.9 million contract provides 1,239 beds and other necessary services. The families will receive a comprehensive health assessment that includes COVID-19 testing," Johnson stated in a March 20 ICE press release. "Our border is not open. The majority of individuals continue to be expelled under the Centers for Disease Control’s public health authority."

Under Title 42, a Trump-era policy, most migrants are turned away at the border to prevent spreading COVID-19 in facilities, according to USA TODAY. Biden has continued the policy with some differences.

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Under Trump, DHS officials held unaccompanied minors in hotels before sending them back to their countries of origin. But migrant children are being admitted for their safety under the Biden administration, according to press secretary Jen Psaki, USA TODAY reported.

“We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated and put into conditions that are safe,” she said during a March 22 press conference.

Psaki also said a limited amount of migrant families had been accepted into the U.S.

National Guard housed in Washington hotels

Guard troops were not housed in parking garages for "no cost," as the claim stated. Hotels were factored into the estimated $483 million spent on National Guard support, according to U.S. Department of Defense press secretary John F. Kirby.

During a Feb. 8 press conference, Kirby said, "$284 million of that is for personnel, and $199 million of that is for operations, and that gets us through March 15."

The personnel costs included lodging, according to Maj. Matt Murphy, National Guard Bureau media relations officer.

"The National Guard Bureau provided lodging using a program with pre-negotiated lodging rates. Because the number of rooms has fluctuated based on mission requirements and force flow, a final cost will not be available until all contracts are paid and reconciled at the conclusion of the mission," he told USA TODAY in an email.

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Roughly 26,000 Guard troops from across the country were deployed to Washington in the days before and after Biden's inauguration, USA TODAY reported.

About 5,000 troops were retained for the duration of Trump's second impeachment trial; from February to mid-March, USA TODAY reported.

Murphy confirmed the Guard's current mission will end in mid-May.

NPR reported about 2,300 troops will remain to guard the Capitol through May 23, per a 60-day extension filed by U.S. Capitol Police. The extension followed intelligence that revealed a possible security threat from an identified militia group.

A picture in the Facebook claim was taken while troops were on a rest break. USCP relocated resting areas away from Capitol grounds to a nearby parking garage, according to reporting from Politico and The Washington Post, The Associated Press.

"The garage was not where they were being housed. They were being housed mostly in hotels and the garage was where they were taking shifts," Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a DOD spokesperson, told USA TODAY.

Our rating: Partly false

We rate this claim PARTLY FALSE, based on our research. A Facebook post stating the Biden administration spends millions on housing for migrant families while National Guard troops deployed to Washington were housed for free in a parking garage is based on incomplete information. The stated amount for temporary shelter for unaccompanied minors and some families is correct. But the implication that guard troops were made to stay in a parking garage is false. And it is false to say no money was spent to house troops. More has been spent on hotel accommodations for troops than housing for migrants.

Our fact-check sources:

Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: National Guard housed in hotels during DC deployment