This column originally appeared in Michigan Advance on June 5, 2019
President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to make America great. But more than halfway through his first term, his preferred policies have done little but demonstrate the disdain he holds for large swaths of our country’s population.
A recent proposal by his Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to change the rules for distributing federal housing assistance to immigrant families is no exception, and the Michigan League for Public Policy is calling on our partners throughout the state to join us in submitting comments opposing this unjust plan.
Eligibility for federal housing assistance is restricted to U.S. citizens and people holding certain immigration statuses, such as Lawful Permanent Residents, asylees and refugees, and victims of trafficking. Currently, “mixed-status” families—those consisting of people of both eligible and ineligible status—may live together in a subsidized unit, but the amount of the subsidy is prorated so it does not cover ineligible family members.
It’s important to note that “ineligible” is not synonymous with “undocumented.” People in a number of legal immigration categories—such as those with student or temporary employment visas and crime survivors assisting government officials with prosecutions—are not eligible for housing assistance.
Under the proposed rule change, an individual could receive housing assistance only if every other person living in the home were a U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant. Thus, mixed-status families would have to choose between staying together and keeping a roof over their heads.
Federal housing assistance is already inadequateto meet the need. According to HUD’s analysis, the rule would further jeopardize housing stability for more than 100,000 people, including 55,000 children who are either U.S. citizens or otherwise authorized to be in the country.
Many children in mixed-status families have already experienced pervasive fear and the loss of loved ones as the Trump administration has stepped up immigration enforcement raids, detentions and deportations.
This type of trauma creates toxic stress, which is particularly harmful to children, whose brains are still developing. It’s disgraceful that HUD Secretary Ben Carson — a Detroit native and world-famous neurosurgeon who should be well aware of the connection between stable, affordable housing and brain health — is a cheerleader for this move that would subject children to the trauma of family separation or homelessness.
By increasing the administrative burden on housing assistance applicants and their families, the rule change would continue the Trump tradition of deprivation by bureaucracy. This administration aims to passively kick people off various services for which they actually qualify by increasing red tape and creating confusion for recipients.
Perhaps most disturbing is the true motivation behind this proposal. Indeed, HUD’s own analysis states, “HUD expects that fear of the family being separated would lead to prompt evacuation by most mixed households, whether that fear is justified.”
Egged on by the president’s supporters, this administration has adopted as one of its most common and beloved tactics the provocation of fear among immigrant families. We’ve seen it most recently in a proposed rule to restrict access to green cards and various types of visas for economically insecure immigrants.
Michigan families are already feeling the chilling effect of changing the public charge rule and other proposals designed to scare them away from the basic needs services for which they are eligible.
Like so many of this administration’s policy proposals, this one is grounded not in facts, but in fear. It exploits deep-seated bigotry to deflect attention from the president’s complete failure to address America’s affordable housing crisis and his broader push to further enrich the nation’s wealthiest people at the expense of the economically disadvantaged.
Everyone needs a safe place to live. Families belong together. And federal housing policy guided by compassion for our fellow human beings is both emotional and logical.
We have until July 9 to submit comments opposing this cruel proposal. Please join the League in standing up for the families of our friends, neighbors and workers who were born outside the United States.