Point of View: HUD “Mixed-Status” Immigration Rule is Based on a Lie – by NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel

Last week, HUD proposed to evict families with undocumented immigrants in their households from public and other subsidized housing. Over fifty thousand deeply poorDiane Yentel children – all US citizens or legal permanent residents - would be evicted and put at high risk of homelessness. The cruelty of the proposal is breathtaking, and the harm it would inflict on children and families is severe. By HUD’s own admission there would be no benefit to families on housing waiting lists.

To be clear: federal housing subsidies do not support undocumented immigrants. Doing so is clearly not permitted by law or regulations and does not occur in practice. What is permitted are “mixed-status” households. These are households where undocumented or otherwise assisted-housing-ineligible immigrant family members are permitted to live in a home with their eligible family members, with the rents for the family strictly prorated to ensure that none of the subsidy assists with the undocumented immigrant’s portion of the rent. There are several ways public housing authorities (PHAs) can calculate the rent charged to those households in order to ensure subsidies do not benefit the undocumented immigrant. But the results are the same: mixed-status households pay significantly higher rents than do similarly situated and sized households who are not mixed-status.

The proposal to evict over 100,000 people during the height of a housing crisis is unconscionable. Equally abhorrent are the administration’s misleading statements and outright lies about subsidies for immigrant families. There’s no bothering with dog-whistles here; the lies pit “real Americans” against black and brown immigrants.

Secretary Carson says his proposal is to help “legitimate American citizens,” so that we can “put America’s most vulnerable first.”  According to HUD’s own analysis, Secretary Carson’s proposal would lead to the eviction and possible homelessness of 55,000 deeply poor children – all U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Secretary Carson’s mistruths about his proposal indicate either that he lacks a basic understanding of the programs he oversees or that he is lying. Either way, it is an abdication of his most basic responsibility of knowing and conveying the truth about HUD programs and the people they serve.

His disregard for the truth gives ground for others to expand on the lie. Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) thanked Secretary Carson for “putting Americans first and making sure that taxpayer money isn’t going to provide (subsidized) housing to illegal immigrants.” Carson thanked him for his support and said, “Together we can make certain our scarce public resources help those who are legally entitled to it.” HUD subsidies, as Secretary Carson should well know, assist only those who are legally entitled to them.

Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) took the lie further. He said on Twitter that we should, “stop the abuse on our public housing system so that we are prioritizing Americans who need it most.” He further thanked Secretary Carson for “putting our most vulnerable Americans first and ensuring they get the aid they need.” Perhaps Representative Crenshaw doesn’t know that Secretary Carson’s proposal would evict tens of thousands of deeply poor American children; perhaps he does know but prefers his own untrue insinuation that undocumented immigrants are jumping ahead of those “most in need” to “abuse” the public housing system. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) said outright what others merely insinuated: “new action by the Trump administration will help ensure illegal aliens can’t use loopholes to jump U.S. citizens in line for public housing.”

Scoring cheap and easy political points at the expense of deeply poor American children, as Secretary Carson’s proposal attempts to do, is unconscionable. Stoking fear, vitriol and hatred is dangerous. These lies provide some in the public cover to blindly believe them. Thousands have left vile and inaccurate comments on online stories covering Carson’s proposed rule, parroting the lies and following them to a racist and equally untrue conclusion: that immigrants are to blame for the housing and homeless crisis.

This weekend, I experienced the hateful rhetoric firsthand. After being quoted in multiple news stories speaking out against both the cruel proposal and the lies at their root, I received voicemails, emails and Twitter mentions declaring “U R a TRAITOR” and a “terrible person.”

“How dare you,” one elderly caller yelled into my voicemail, “you’re allowing illegal immigrants to take what belongs to me. You should not be representing people that are doing wrong by our country. This is going to end.” She further shouted, “You should be representing American citizens, not illegals who don’t even know what the f&%! country they’re in. We don’t want any more people in our country taking our housing.”

Secretary Carson’s proposal is another in a long line of attempts by the Trump administration to instill fear in immigrants throughout the country and to use racism to turn “regular Americans” against them. We must not stand for it. Speaking out and speaking truth - clearly, unequivocally, consistently – is more important than ever. At NLIHC, we’ll continue to do so every day. I hope you’ll join us.