House Democrats are seeking to block the Trump administration from following through on a plan to make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to receive government housing aid.
They've included in their annual spending bill language that would bar the Department of Housing and Urban Development from carrying out the proposal. HUD's proposal barring aid would also apply to "mixed status" families comprised of individuals of different legal statuses.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson defended the proposal before Congress last month in a contentious exchange with California Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia.
"Alright, so you're going to shift 55,000 children from being with their families to then to a homeless status," Garcia said. "What's going to happen with these children? Have you thought this program through?"
Carson replied, "Well, maybe what will happen with them is that you and Congress will do your job and solve the problem."
The full House Appropriations Committee is set to consider the bill on Tuesday. To become law from there, it would have to pass the Democratic-controlled House, Republican-controlled Senate, and be signed by the President.
Carson said current law "states very specifically that the secretary of HUD may not provide housing assistance to people who are here illegally."
"There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who are waiting on the list," he said at last month's hearing. "Do you suggest that we prioritize people who are illegal situations?"
When the rule was first proposed, a HUD official said the law requires the department to cut off assistance if the leaseholder "has knowingly permitted any individual not eligible for assistance," such as an undocumented immigrant, "to reside the supported housing." It proposes using a Department of Homeland Security database "to ensure federal housing assistance is awarded to verified US citizens and legal US residents," the official said.
A HUD spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The pot of federal housing assistance is limited, and HUD says only about one in four qualifying households currently receives such assistance. Nationally, the average waitlist time for assistance is about two years.
But opponents of the plan have highlighted the so-called mixed families -- such as those with an undocumented parent and citizen children. By HUD's own estimate, 55,000 children live in households with an undocumented family member.
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