Taking undocumented immigrants’ housing won’t help the ‘most vulnerable,’ Mr. President | John L. Micek

A Mexican family makes tamales to ring in the New Year (Photo by Francisca Escobar, Flickr Commons)

The Trump administration is upping the ante in its war on undocumented immigrants with a new proposal to boot them from public housing — all in the name of helping “the most vulnerable” Americans.

But immigration activists and advocates for low-income Pennsylvanians say all the White House’s plan would do is leave thousands of children, who are American citizens, potentially homeless.

“This is a punitive move, not a substantive one,” Rachel Garland, a housing law attorney with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, told the Capital-Star on Monday. That’s about as polite a way to describe “fear-mongering” as you’re likely to hear this week.

So here’s the how and why of it:

Last week, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development floated a new rule expanding the Homeland Security-administered Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, or SAVE.

The goal here, as first reported by the conservative Daily Caller with its usual gleeful maliciousness, is to tighten up verification procedures that allowed some undocumented immigrants to obtain public housing without disclosing their legal status, the New York Times and other outlets reported.

Which sounds great and all, until, as usual, you get to the fine print.

As CityLab reports, HUD has long allowed families to live together in federally subsidized housing, even if one member of the family is in the country illegally. Typically, that means that the head of a household, such as a mother or father, might be undocumented, while their children are citizens.

Under the proposed HUD rule, if the SAVE program determines that even one member of a household is undocumented, that would be enough to get an entire family booted from public housing — even if that person is not accepting any subsidized benefit, Garland said.

Surprising no one, HUD Secretary Ben Carson took an entirely incorrect victory lap, writing on Twitter that “Thanks to [President Donald Trump’s] leadership, we are putting America’s most vulnerable first. Our nation faces affordable housing challenges and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on waitlists to get housing assistance.”

The most vulnerable, y’know, like kids who are American citizens, who’d be “penalized” through no fault of their own and likely be forced into “substandard” housing, Garland observed Monday.

If the rule is eventually implemented, about 32,000 families nationwide would be affected. That’s less than a drop in the bucket compared to the “1.6 million families on Public Housing waiting lists and more than 2.8 million families on Housing Choice Voucher waiting lists (or Section 8),” according to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

Betty Cruz, of the Pittsburgh-based immigrant advocacy campaign All for All, said she sees the administration’s action as the latest in a long line attempting to reduce immigrants — legal and undocumented alike — to a “scapegoat or a bogeyman.”

“Affordable housing is an important issue, and we should see positive action. Throughout the state, federal, and local level, there is important work to be done,” she said. “This is another distraction to try to blame an entire group of people as if they are the problem instead of focusing on what the administration should be doing to provide affordable housing for our whole community.”

In addition, the proposed rule would eat into the bottom lines of local housing authorities, who charge full price on housing to undocumented immigrants and charge the subsidized price to citizens, Garland added. Federal support for subsidized housing fell steadily from 2011 to 2018, when Congress boosted HUD’s core housing programs by 10 percent, or $4.7 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to Garland, Congress has 15 days from last Wednesday, when HUD promulgated its proposed rule, to conduct its own evaluation. After that, the rule goes to a 60-day public comment period. When that ends, HUD could choose to put the rule into effect (where it would almost certainly face legal challenges) or not do anything at all with it. Advocates such as Garland are hoping the latter is the case.

“If the administration wanted to alleviate the affordable housing crisis, their energy would be better spent asking Congress to allocate more money to local housing authorities,” Garland said.

Cruz, meanwhile, said the latest furor over HUD’s proposed rule-making is also a distraction from the fact that any debate over meaningful immigration reform has effectively ground to a halt on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t see any action or progress by this administration when it comes to the rights of immigrants, black Americans, or the LGBT community,” she said. “Everything is being slow-walked and delayed. Even the most bipartisan issues.”

And, in the end, the damage is collateral — a fact that was driven home to her when she went door-knocking in Pittsburgh recently with another immigrants rights group. People answering the door, she said, were surprised to hear of the “severity” of the challenges facing the immigrant community — in Pennsylvania and nationwide.

“It was encouraging to get out there and knock on doors, to have [people] take an interest,” she said. “These policies don’t just affect the immigrant community. They affect all of us.”

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

1 COMMENT

  1. THE STAMPEDE:
    Make no mistake, Democrats want this. They will with hold support allowing as many illegal aliens to enter the country before assisting in border security. Dems offer rewards, incentives so…..More caravans on the way. The current migration at our border is costing U.S taxpayers a Kings ransom. Fleeing persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don’t stay in Mexico when they reach “safety” or ask or offered political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats, and our tax dollars. Notice how many have made the long, difficult, dangerous journey to our country 8-9 months pregnant? Give birth on American soil and the U.S. taxpayers will not only pay for the birth of you’re child but will also give you state government assistance.

    TPS / DACA
    To Democrats/Progressives/Socialists (whats the difference?) programs like Temporary Protective Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA) are permanent programs. There is nothing “temporary or deferred” about these programs to Democrats. These programs are designed to admit refugees (usually from the third world) then Democrats fight to keep them here permanently using the charge of racism, religion, guilt against anyone opposed. Simple formula works great.

    THE PRICE:
    It seems Democrats view U.S. citizens as acceptable collateral damage to their future long range goals of flooding the country with refugees & illegal aliens and having taxpayers paying the cost. Democrat politicians and their voters have put families at risk of being victimized by illegal aliens as in the cases Kate Steinly (nothing done) then, Mollie Tibbetts, (nothing done) Police Cpl. Ronil Singh, (nothing done) now Bambi Larson; butchered in her home, nothing will be done…who’s next? These victims would be alive today if our border was secured. Most of these killers have been deported numerous times. Bambi ‘s killer claimed “amnesty” to get into the country.

    Google search “illegal alien crime” or “victims.”

    Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we will pass this burden on to our children & grand children as has been passed on to us.

    * City emergency services Taxpayer pay for every police, fire, paramedic service call for illegal aliens in their city. Taxpayers also pay for all hospital, emergency room treatments, ambulances, medications….everything. Hospital wait times for citizens are negatively impacted.

    *Cost of educating illegal aliens is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers on average $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the millions spent on bilingual ED, instructors, special need children & day care. School class size are negatively impacted by illegal aliens and our students suffer as a result.

    *Taxpayers in some states are funding “in state college tuition” discounts for illegal aliens. (AZ voted to terminate this taxpayer expense.) Cost to taxpayers over a billion dollars annually.

    *About one in five inmates in federal prison are foreign-born, & more than 90% of those are in the U.S illegally. This does not include local jails and state prisons. At roughly $24,000 per year expense per inmate.

    *$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate, process Illegal aliens in the criminal justice system.

    *$2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, & taxpayer funded school lunches. Visit youtube search “cost of illegal immigration.”

    *Mexico received 33 billion last year in remittance from our country. $120 billion total was sent out of the United States in total remittance last year.

    *Every child birth by illegal aliens in the U.S is paid for with tax dollars.In the US, the average cost to have a baby without complications during delivery, is $10,808, which can increase to $30,000 when factoring in care provided before and after pregnancy (July 9, 2018 google.)

    * Section 8 housing. Illegal aliens take full advantage of this program. Citizens & their families in poverty in many cases wait years behind non citizens for emergency housing.

    Democrat Platform
    *Open Borders.
    *Sanctuary Cities.
    *Elimination of ICE.
    *Voting rights for illegal aliens.
    *Pack the courts with radical liberal judges (Like the 9th circuit)
    *Increase refugee’s from the third world.
    *Illegal aliens allowed to hold public office.
    *Socialism.
    *Free Abortions (Taxpayer funded)
    *The green new deal.
    *End of Electoral College
    *Free health care for all including non citizens (taxpayer funded)
    *Raise Minimum Wage
    *Have adolescents vote
    *!00% free college for all, including non citizens. (tax payer funded)
    *Reparations for every race “harmed” by the white man.
    *Convicts voting.
    *Susie & Bobby using the same restrooms.
    *Late term abortions.

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