NY Legislators Oppose Plan to End Housing Aid for Undocumented Immigrants

Lawmakers in New York are pushing back on a proposed Trump administration policy that would make it more difficult for families with mixed immigration status to live in public housing or receive housing benefits.

In April, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a proposal that would screen all public housing residents under age 62 through a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program to verify their immigration status. The proposed rule could cause mixed-status families to lose their benefits and be forced out of their homes in an effort to crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented people are technically ineligible for housing benefits and must live with one eligible relative who is a US citizen in order to receive aid. Under the new policy, HUD would conduct immigration checks through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements electronic system operated by DHS, which allows federal and local governments access to the E-verify program.

On Friday, May 10, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and other state lawmakers from the New York City Congressional delegation wrote a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson encouraging him to withdraw the proposed rule. The lawmakers argued that it “could result in thousands of families being made homeless or, in some cases, cause some families of mixed immigration status to separate.”

“The Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border has been soundly rejected by the American people as heartless, cruel and inhumane,” Velázquez said in a statement. “Now, it appears Trump’s HUD would separate immigrant families who use affordable housing benefits or even cause thousands of them to become homeless. Not only is this sickeningly cruel, but for an administration that regularly proposes zeroing out funding for public housing in its annual budget, it is also strikingly hypocritical to suggest we don’t have adequate resources for all those who rely on housing aid. Rather than trying to hurt our immigrant neighbors, HUD should work with Congress to strengthen these programs.”

Velázquez and other lawmakers called the proposed rule “disturbing” and said that it would not only remove undocumented immigrants from public housing but could also cause case processing delays. “Your approach represents a major shift from current HUD policy, and by design makes it more difficult for families to have access to assistance for which they would otherwise be eligible,” the letter stated.

New York lawmakers that have signed off on the letter include US Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Gregory W. Meeks, Kathleen M. Rice, Hakeem S. Jeffries, Adriano Espaillat, and many others.

“We believe the proposed rule would fail to advance any meaningful public policy benefit, but it would needlessly inflict hardship on thousands of working families, seniors and others. We ask the agency to withdraw this rule. Under no circumstances, should it be adopted in its current form,” the lawmakers wrote. Many organizations have expressed how the proposed rule could negatively impact immigrant families living in public housing. National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel said in a previous statement that the agency’s proposal is “cruel.”

“HUD does not subsidize undocumented immigrants who live in public housing. Every household must have an eligible citizen or legal resident in it, and ineligible members are not subsidized,” Yentel wrote. “HUD falsely claims the change is proposed out of concern for long waiting lists, when they know well that it would do nothing to free up new units. The true purpose may be part of this administration’s effort to instill fear in immigrants throughout the country.”

The proposal is just one of the many methods President Donald Trump is using to crackdown on immigration policy. In April, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that undocumented immigrants working in the marijuana field could be prevented from attaining citizenship in the US.

In the guidance from USCIS, the agency stated that weed is still considered to be a “Schedule I” controlled substance, which means that it is still considered to be a drug with a “high potential for abuse” under federal law. Undocumented immigrants who are involved in the manufacture, possession, or distribution of marijuana could be subject to “immigration consequences.”

“USCIS is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify that violations of federal controlled substance law, including violations involving marijuana, are generally a bar to establishing good moral character (GMC) for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law,” the agency wrote.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.