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Immigrant families could be barred from public housing

News & Commentary  |  By Myrna Martinez Nateras, Jun 28, 2019

A Know Your Rights workshop for immigrants in Madera, California, facilitated by Letty Lopez, a former fellow with AFSC's Pan Valley Institute. 

Eduardo Stanley

Tens of thousands of immigrant families could be evicted from public housing, under a proposed rule from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The public has until Tuesday, July 9 to comment on this rule, which would prohibit "mixed-status" families from living in public and other subsidized housing – and is just one of the latest attacks by the Trump administration on immigrant communities.

Here in Fresno, California, which is part of the rich agricultural area known as the San Joaquin Valley, AFSC works with many farm laborers and other people who are part of mixed-status households. We see every day community members struggling to afford housing and support their families. And it’s unconscionable that the Trump administration wants to make life even harder for our communities. 

Public programs and services designed to meet the broad needs of our society – and reflect our societal sense of fairness and compassion – should never be dependent on a person’s immigration status. Housing is a human right, and it’s critical that we do all that we can to stop the Trump administration’s efforts to deny that right to immigrant families.

Here's what you need to know and how you can take action to stop it. 

What change is the Trump administration proposing? 

Under existing rules, people who do not have eligible immigration status cannot receive housing subsidies – but can still live with family members who are eligible. The proposed rule would change that policy by barring eligible family members from housing assistance (including public housing and Section 8 vouchers) if they live with a family member who is ineligible. 

A family member does not have to be undocumented to be considered ineligible. HUD could consider immigrants ineligible even if they have legal immigration status, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Deferred Enforced Departure, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or have secured visas after surviving serious crimes in the U.S.

How would this rule impact our communities? 

If this rule is finalized, HUD could evict up to 25,000 immigrant families from their homes across the United States, including over 50,000 children who are green card holders or U.S. citizens. 

In Fresno, an estimated 570 mixed-immigration status families living in public housing or receiving subsidies will be affected, according to the Fresno Housing Authority, which opposes the change. That figure includes an estimated 1,402 children who could lose their homes as their family makes the heartbreaking decision of whether to split up – so they can continue receiving housing assistance – or forego housing assistance all together.

The rule would also toughen documentation requirements for U.S. citizens and immigrants who are 62 years or older. If they’re not able to prove their immigration status, millions of citizens and elderly residents could also lose their housing subsidies. 

The proposed rule would exacerbate the homelessness crisis here in California – where our homeless population has grown about 15% in the last two years – and across the country. It would also engender fear and chaos among immigrants and their families, penalizing them for seeking help when they need it and discouraging people from using public benefits that they’re entitled to. 

To ensure everyone has a safe place to live, the Trump administration with Congress should be making significant investments in affordable housing options – not making it harder for people to access housing assistance. 

What can we do about it? 

The public has until July 9 to submit comments on the proposed rule, which has not been finalized. 

Click here to publicly comment on the administration’s proposed change, titled “FR-6124-P-01 Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status.”

Under federal law, the government must consider public comments before issuing a final rule. That’s why we need you to submit yours now. A flood of comments can slow down the process, shape the administration’s decisions, and show how many people care. 

Tell the government to reject any regulation that would punish immigrants for accessing needed services. Use your own words and write from your own values. Share your thoughts on how the proposal will impact your community. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:  

  • Families shouldn’t have to choose between housing – a basic human right – and staying together.
  • This rule will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable in our society, including children, pregnant women, seniors, and families living paycheck to paycheck.  
  • The rule unfairly targets immigrants of color in our community.  
  • We all benefit when all members of our communities have safe housing and resources to meet their basic needs. 

Remember: Comments must be submitted by July 9. Please take action and speak out today.

 

About the Author

Myrna Martinez Nateras is the program director for the Pan Valley Institute of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). In 1998 Myrna joined AFSC to found the Pan Valley Institute, a center with the goal of assisting immigrants in becoming active players in empowering their communities.

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