The Trump administration proposed a rule this week that would prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving HUD housing assistance. Reportedly affecting about 25,000 households, this is the administration’s latest attempt to close off safety net benefits from immigrants; both documented and undocumented.
As reported in The New York Times, the proposal would overturn what the Trump administration described as a Clinton-era loophole. The administration said that the current rules allowed some undocumented immigrants to live in HUD housing without disclosing their immigration status.
It is not yet confirmed if this policy would be in place for all HUD housing programs. This information will likely not be known until the proposed rule is officially published.
Currently, as long as one member of the household is a U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant, the entire household may live in HUD housing. The leaseholder does not have to be a citizen or eligible immigrant. The rental subsidy they receive is also reduced for each member of the household that is undocumented. This is called prorated assistance.
Under the Trump proposal, the leaseholder would have to be a U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant. In addition, the rule would expand the use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database. The SAVE program is run by the Department of Homeland Security. It is used to verify immigrant eligibility for social service programs run by other federal departments. It is not clear whether the SAVE program would be used to verify the immigration status of other household members besides the leaseholder.
Undocumented immigrants would not be evicted immediately if the rule goes into effect. Households that need to leave their apartments can receive up to three waivers of six months in time. This would provide a total of 18 months to find new housing.
You can find out what affordable rental programs are currently available to immigrants by reading Affordable Housing Online’s Housing Resources for Immigrants Guide.
This move follows others by the Trump administration to restrict housing assistance for both undocumented and legal immigrants. Last year, the administration proposed a rule that would restrict legal immigrants from receiving public benefits, including rental housing assistance. The proposal would expand the list of supportive programs that can be considered when determining if an immigrant is a “public charge.” A public charge determination means that an immigrant is dependent on the government to meet basic needs.
Under current practice, only dependence on cash assistance programs would make an applicant for lawful entry or permanent legal status a public charge. The Trump Administration proposed expanding the definition of public charge to include not only cash but also in-kind benefits, emergency services and tax credits.
Under the proposed rule, if a lawful immigrant used affordable housing programs, SNAP (Food Stamps), emergency shelter services, child health insurance or a range of other programs for short-term help, they could have their applications rejected. Even receiving a healthcare tax credit under the Affordable Care Act would make it harder for an immigrant to lawfully gain entry or permanent legal status.
Under the current system, undocumented immigrants qualify for only a small number of federal housing programs, primarily those that are focused on emergency shelter. Even in the case of HUD housing, the benefits are being provided for the U.S. citizens or eligible immigrants in these households. Often, these are children or elder dependents. In fact, the amount of housing assistance is reduced for each undocumented person present, with the idea that only the eligible members are being helped.
Ultimately, this measure would affect only a small portion of HUD housing households. The ones being penalized are not so much the undocumented immigrants, but rather their citizen or legal alien children and dependents.
HUD sent the proposal in a letter to Congress for a 15-day review period. After that, the proposed rule will be published in The Federal Register for 60 days of public comment. This puts the rule on track to be implemented this summer. Also, the proposed rule would almost certainly be challenged in court, and it may be some time before it ever takes effect
Even though the proposed rule has not been published yet, people can still share their opinions about it with their members of Congress. When Senators and Representatives hear concerns from constituents, they can put pressure on the Administration to delay, revise or drop a proposed rule.