THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION'S ATTACK ON HOUSING ASSISTANCE FOR IMMIGRANT FAMILIES
The Trump Administration’s hostility towards low-income immigrants and immigrants of color fuel its immigration policies. While many of these attacks have been highly publicized, the Administration has also attempted to covertly go around Congress and dramatically change U.S. immigration policy by creating anti-immigrant regulations through federal agencies.
A prime example of this strategy is the Administration’s efforts to deter immigrants and their families from accessing federal housing assistance. Several agencies have proposed or finalized rules that further restrict immigrant eligibility for certain housing programs as well as threaten some immigrants with denials of green cards if they receive – or could theoretically receive – these benefits.
Blaming struggling families will not fix the affordable housing crisis. The real issue is the lack of sufficient funding to ensure that every family who is eligible for federal housing assistance has access to one of the most basic human rights—a safe, accessible, and affordable place to call home.
To address our affordable housing crisis and ensure everyone has an accessible and affordable home, the Trump Administration should make significant new investments in affordable housing resources, rather than creating regulations that attack immigrant families of modest means.
DHS's Final Public Charge Rule on Inadmissibility
On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially published the final version of their “Rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” (Public Charge Rule). This Public Charge Rule makes it easier for DHS to declare certain immigrants to be a "public charge," which can result in someone being denied admission into the country or not receiving a green card. Under the Public Charge Rule, an individual may be deemed a public charge because they use or might use in the future vital health, nutrition, or housing assistance programs. Importantly, the Public Charge Rule makes it easier for certain immigrants to be deemed a public charge – even if they have never received federal benefits – based on factors such as income, age, health, and education level.
If not blocked in court, the Public Charge Rule will drastically change immigration policy by expanding the types of benefits that DHS considers in public charge determinations to include benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, public housing, and Section 8 housing subsidies.
The publication of a proposed version of the rule last October led many families to drop out of critical food and nutrition programs for their children out of fear of risking future green card status. This chilling effect is poised to impact hundreds of thousands of immigrant households that depend on these programs for survival and economic success in their adopted country.
The Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign of over 1,500 organizations nationwide, including both the National Housing Law Project and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, helped organize opposition to the proposed rule and encouraged people to submit comments during the public comment period, which closed December of 2018. Over 266,000 comments were submitted during the 60-day comment period, with the vast majority opposing the proposed rule.
The Public Charge Rule is set to go into effect on October 15, 2019. Partners from the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign as well as several State Attorneys General are pursuing litigation to prevent this disastrous Public Charge Rule from going into effect. In support of these litigation efforts, the National Housing Law Project along with the Food Research & Action Center, Center for Law and Social Policy and other groups filed an amicus brief in five cases opposing the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule. The National Low Income Housing Coalition was one of the many groups that signed on to the amicus to show their support. The amicus brief argues that the Public Charge Rule will decrease immigrants’ participation in crucial public benefit programs that promote self-sufficiency, which will lead to greater housing instability, homelessness, hunger, and illness. The brief was drafted and filed with the assistance of the law firm of Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP.
To learn more about the housing impact of the Public Charge Rule, visit NHLP’s Public Charge Resource page. To learn about the rule more generally, please visit the Protecting Immigrant Families website.
HUD'S Proposed Mixed-Status Families Rule
On May 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a proposed rule that would prohibit “mixed-status" families from living in public and other subsidized housing. Mixed-status families are households that include both members who are eligible and ineligible for housing assistance based on their citizenship/immigration status. Federal statute and regulations allow families to live together in subsidized housing even if one family member is ineligible so long as the housing subsidy is decreased to exclude the ineligible person from the assistance. Importantly, just because a household member is an “ineligible” immigrant, it doesn’t mean that they are undocumented. Immigrants can have legal status and still not be eligible for public housing and Section 8 programs.
The rule would further require all residents under the age of 62 to have their immigration status screened through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE), which is operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Families with members who are deemed “ineligible” will be evicted from subsidized housing after 18 months or sooner.
HUD's proposed rule would force families of mixed immigration status to break up to receive housing assistance, to forego assistance altogether, or face termination from the programs. This rule will directly impact thousands of immigrant families’ access to housing and will have a chilling effect that puts thousands more at risk of homelessness. HUD’s own analysis shows that more than 55,000 children, who are either U.S. citizens or otherwise eligible to receive housing benefits, could face eviction under the proposed rule. The proposed rule will continue to engender fear and chaos among immigrants and their families.
While HUD claims the agency proposed the rule out of concern for long wait lists, this rule will reduce the number of subsidies provided to families. By getting rid of mixed-status families, HUD's analysis shows that millions of new dollars would have to be provided to families with all eligible members. To make up for the higher costs, HUD would be forced to reduce the quality and quantity of assisted housing.
The proposed rule will be administratively burdensome to implement for housing authorities and private owners of Section 8-assisted properties. Housing providers will be forced to focus their resources on terminating and evicting families, which will divert resources away from property maintenance and employment-related resident services they already provide. These additional burdens could deter private housing providers from participating in the Section 8 programs, worsening the affordable housing crisis.
The public comment period for this rule ended July 9, 2019. Thanks to your advocacy, more than 30,000 individuals and organizations submitted comments on the proposed HUD rule. HUD is now drafting a final rule and must respond to all the submitted comments. The opposition to the proposal from individuals, organizations, and elected officials has been overwhelming and historic. The last time a HUD proposal garnered significant public attention resulted in just over 1,000 public comments.
Currently, the KFT campaign is working with partners and allies to organize meetings with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) when the rule is finalized by HUD. These meetings provide another opportunity to voice your opposition to the proposal and add information to the administrative record. If you are interested in participating in an OIRA meeting, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
DOJ's Proposed Public Charge Rule on Deportation
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has drafted a proposed rule related to deportation on public charge grounds. This is a distinct rule from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge rule on inadmissibility that was finalized on August 14, 2019. While the proposed rule has not yet been officially published, DOJ has sent the proposed rule to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and it is expected to be published in the near future.
To learn more about the DOJ’s Public Charge Rule please see this fact sheet from the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign.
RHS's Proposed Mixed-Status Families Rule
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) is currently developing a proposed rule on citizenship requirements for the agency's multifamily housing programs. The proposed rule will likely prohibit mixed-status immigrant families from receiving housing assistance from some RHS programs, including the Rural Development (RD) Voucher program and rental assistance for the Section 515 and Section 514/516 programs. Please stay tuned for more information about the proposed rule in the coming weeks.