By Thomas J. Edwards.
A news story in mid-April declared that the Department of Housing & Urban Development was about to unleash a new rule that would oust thousands of illegal immigrants from public and assisted housing subsidies. The information ostensibly came from a Trump administration leak that HUD had sent a letter to Congress informing lawmakers of a proposed rule to that effect.
The letter had HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking Congress for a 15-day review of a proposed rule that would essentially remove as many as 32,000 illegal aliens from public housing rolls at the least.
There was one problem: No letter existed. HUD officials were befuddled. Such notification would not have been proper procedure to begin with. Normally, HUD would draft contents of a proposal and send them to the Office of Management & Budget for review. Following review, HUD would post a new rule inviting the public to comment on the contents. Occasionally, HUD sends the proposal to Congress, depending on public interest about the issue.
Any such notice is always posted publicly, however obscurely, on an agency’s website. No such notice was posted.
The”leak’ apparently was timed to resurrect attention on the Department of Homeland Security’s August notice that it intends to craft new rules that could end legal resident status for immigrants who receive welfare benefits. The impact of the notice, issued as Congress left Washington for its customary August vacation, soon lost its punch as the Russian collusion investigation consumed all the political oxygen.
While the DHS rules remain in the development stages, the furor resulting from the latest incarnation of the Trump administration campaign to revamp immigration policy forced HUD’s hand. The department is crafting a policy to eliminate abuse of public housing privileges by enforcing the illegal alien provisions of Section 214 of the Housing & Community Development Act of 1980 and Title 4 of the Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. The latter law explicitly states that aliens, unless they are qualified aliens, are not eligible for “federal public benefits” a term defined in the law to include public and assisted (Section 8) housing.
The problem has been percolating below the surface for years with HUD’s failure to bar the practice. A long line of HUD secretaries ignored the prohibition, either through failure of the entrenched bureaucracy to raise the issue as a reminder to the political appointees or through willful rejection of enforcement. The issue magnified during the Obama administration when increasing numbers of illegal aliens were awarded public housing subsidies after the agency diverted all of it oversight and enforcement resources under two successive secretaries to focus on a new way to operate HUD.
The lax attention gave state and local governments, particularly those self-declared as sanctuaries for illegal aliens, such as New York, California, and parts of Texas, a green light to bend the rules. The problem became so critical that it prompted a study by Congress’ research arm in late 2015 to remind the Executive Branch of the fine points of the two laws. The result — Immigration: Non-citizen Eligibility for Needs-Based Housing Programs — was issued just before the Christmas holidays that year. it was entirely overlooked and now is on a shelf gathering dust. See the Congressional Research Service report at https://tinyurl.com/y24gzdk8
Regardless of the motivation behind the origin of the story, HUD is now boxed in to enforcing the laws and Secretary Ben Carson, caught unaware by a HUD bureaucracy still loyal to the Obama administration, is huddling with HUD senior executives on how best to resolve the issue.
When HUD issues new enforcement guidelines — the agency is now preparing policy guidelines in the wake of the disclosures and is expected to issue a proposal soon — each tenant in a household will likely be required to submit to review under the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program.