Trump to Enforce Housing Aid Ban for Illegal Immigrants

Trump to Enforce Housing Aid Ban for Illegal Immigrants
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File
Trump to Enforce Housing Aid Ban for Illegal Immigrants
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File
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The Trump administration will soon release new regulatory changes aimed at ensuring that federal housing assistance goes to qualifying citizens and legal residents, not illegal immigrants.

Sources familiar with the proposal told RealClearPolitics that the updated rule is meant to bring the Department of Housing and Urban Development into closer compliance with existing law.

While Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act prohibits HUD from making financial assistance available to anyone other than citizens or legal residents, the administration contends that a loophole allows ineligible residents to skirt the law. Sources told RCP that a single legal resident can apply for assistance and then use the benefit to house illegal immigrants.

The rule would require HUD to verify the legal status of applicants with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services through a program called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements. Officials described it as a sort of E-Verify for entitlements.

It could go into effect as early as this summer.

The regulatory fix comes at a moment when millions of Americans are waiting on housing assistance. According to HUD estimates, three of every four families who qualify do not receive help paying their rent, and in many places demand far outstrips supply. 

A national survey conducted by the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corp. found that in 2013 waiting lists had been closed for more than two years by 41 percent of public housing agencies across the country. According to a separate 2016 analysis of federal data by the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average wait time is over three years.

The need is particularly acute in urban and poor cities. When the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles opened up 20,000 spots in its voucher program in October of 2017, for instance, more than 188,000 people reportedly applied.

According to housing advocates, a majority of those waiting for assistance nationally are seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children.

Wait lists could be cleared and assistance awarded more readily, the administration argues, if illegal immigrants weren’t taking advantage of a benefit reserved for citizens. According to HUD estimates, nearly 32,000 households receive federal subsidies though they are headed by non-legal U.S. residents. 

An administration official invoked Cher to make that argument, insisting that those statistics get “to the point that Cher was making in her tweet, which is that we have our own citizens to house and care for.”

Earlier this week, Trump floated the idea of busing illegal immigrants to self-described sanctuary cities as retribution against congressional Democrats opposed to his hard-line immigration policies. The award-winning singer and actress was less than pleased: 

“I Understand Helping struggling Immigrants, but MY CITY (Los Angeles) ISNT TAKING CARE OF ITS OWN.WHAT ABOUT THE 50,000+Citizens WHO LIVE ON THE STREETS.PPL WHO LIVE BELOW POVERTY LINE,& HUNGRY? If My State Can't Take Care of Its Own(Many Are VETS)How Can it Take Care Of More?”

The official insisted that Trump and the entertainer were on the same page: “We need to take care of our own citizens and anyone in our own country who is homeless or has fallen on hard times, before we start taking care of the rest of the world.”

The aide did not, however, note that after Trump retweeted Cher, the actress referred to the president as “an ignorant thug with a lizard brain.”

The proposed rule change comes shortly after the resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and amid White House frustration that more isn’t being done to curb illegal crossings at the southern border. With Nielsen out, the administration is expected to come down even harder on illegal immigrants.

Trump regularly complains that welfare benefits serve as a magnet to Mexicans and Central Americans, claiming as recently as last month that illegal immigrants cross the border to collect entitlement benefits and vote for Democrats.

“I don’t want to have anyone coming in that’s on welfare,” the president told Trump-friendly Breitbart News in an interview. “We have a problem, because we have politicians that are not strong, or they have bad intentions, or they want to get votes, because they think if [immigrants] come in they’re going to vote Democrat, you know, for the most part.”

“I don’t like the idea of people coming in and going on welfare for 50 years, and that’s what they want to be able to do—and it’s no good,” the president concluded.

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