Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has proclaimed an “America first” philosophy. On Tuesday, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson confirmed that this means even citizens and legal residents could be kicked out onto the street just for being related to an undocumented immigrant — including their children.
Carson was testifying Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee when House Democrats questioned him about a new HUD proposal that would disfavor families that include an undocumented immigrant when it comes to receiving housing assistance. Even if their child is a legal citizen, the whole family could lose their home because one parent is undocumented, for example. As many as 55,000 children that are citizens or legal residents could become homeless because of the rule change.
Carson openly acknowledged his belief that all-citizen families are more deserving of having a roof over their head than families with mixed immigration status. “It’s not that we’re cruel, mean-hearted,” he insisted. “It’s that we are logical. This is common sense. You take care of your own first.”
There’s a political motivation behind the proposal as well, which Carson admitted. The administration is holding these families hostage to try to force Congress to pass some sort of comprehensive immigration reform. If they can’t find other places to live, the families will have the opportunity to apply for up to three six-month deferrals, Carson explained, and that year and a half of impending homelessness should be “enough time for Congress to engage in comprehensive immigration reform.”
There’s no promise that Congress could agree to a bill in that time that Trump would sign, nor is there any guarantee it would remedy this situation or prevent HUD from displacing these families from their homes.
Carson has consistently shown a casual disregard for the people who might lose their homes as a result of the changes he tries to make at HUD. For example, his department has proposed legislation that would force people receiving housing subsidies to pay an increased portion of their income and triple the minimum monthly rent they would have to pay. Carson has also been dismantling an Obama-era rule combating housing discrimination, leaving it to individuals to engage in costly litigation to enforce the Fair Housing Act.
But the proposal is also reminiscent of the administration’s other strict immigration policies, including its family separation policy. The administration has lost track of thousands of children separated from their families at the border, unable to reunite them with their parents, including at least another 1,712 children per a new report, in addition to the previously known 3,000. Just this week, a 16-year-old migrant child died in an immigration detention facility after being held there twice as long as federal law permits. He was the fifth minor to die after being detained at the border since December.
Despite this, Trump wants to double down on the policy by forcing immigrant families to make a “binary choice” between family separation and family detention — losing their child or being jailed alongside them.
This HUD policy could force thousands more children into the foster care system. If a child is a citizen but either or both of their parents are undocumented, they could not only lose their home, but enforcement could lead to the parents’ deportation as well. Because mixed-status families also receive prorated assistance (undocumented family members don’t receive aid), the policy of only providing to families in which all members are citizens would actually cost the government more. The administration is willing to increase costs and increase homelessness — including for U.S. citizens — just to target and punish undocumented immigrants.
Unsurprisingly, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is behind all of these new immigration proposals. Miller reportedly orchestrated the ousters of several officials last month, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, paving the way for him to personally oversee the administration’s immigration policy. Miller is virulently xenophobic, even once insisting that the Statue of Liberty’s poem — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — was only “added later” and didn’t represent the country’s past approach to immigration.