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Trump Proposal Would Force 25,000 Families to Split Up or Lose Rental Assistance

June 27, 2019 at 4:00 PM

A proposed Trump Administration rule would ban certain families with immigrants from most federal rental assistance programs, forcing tens of thousands of eligible people to split up their families or lose their assistance and risk eviction and homelessness. Despite the Administration’s claims, this rule wouldn’t free up resources to provide more housing assistance for the 3 in 4 households that qualify but don’t receive any due to limited funding.

The rule would take assistance away from eligible people if they live in a “mixed-status” family — one with at least one person who doesn’t have an eligible immigration status. For decades, federal law has limited rental assistance to U.S. citizens and people with certain immigration statuses, such as lawful permanent residency or refugee status. When families include an immigrant whose status doesn’t qualify them for assistance, longstanding policy carefully prorates assistance, ensuring that ineligible family members don’t receive it. The Administration’s proposal would end the sensible proration policy and would take rental assistance away from eligible people. (The proposed rule is open for public comment through July 9, after which the Administration may finalize it.)

Barring mixed-status families would force over 100,000 people in 25,000 families — including 58,000 children — to make the agonizing choice between splitting up and losing the assistance that helps them keep a roof over their heads. That’s on top of harmful documentation requirements that the proposed rule would impose on all citizens and eligible older immigrants, which would also put housing assistance at risk for large numbers of households.

The typical mixed-status household is a working family of four with two school-aged children and two adults. Usually, three of the four family members are eligible for rental assistance and are U.S. citizens. Most of these families earn less than $14,000 a year, which isn’t nearly enough to afford a two-bedroom rental home in any state. Mixed-status families would have little choice but to forgo rental assistance because their only other option is split up their families. Losing rental assistance would put them at risk of eviction, long-term housing instability, and homelessness, jeopardizing their children’s well-being and future economic opportunity and threatening their job security.

Along with families with children, thousands of seniors and people with disabilities would lose assistance. And the rule would disproportionately harm Latinx people, who make up about 20 percent of the people who receive rental assistance but 85 percent of people living in mixed-status families, raising serious fair housing concerns. Under the Fair Housing Act, a policy can be considered illegal discrimination if it disproportionately harms people of color or another protected group even if the discrimination wasn’t intentional or explicit.

While causing tremendous harm to the children and adults in mixed-status families, the proposal would not further any genuine policy goals. Nor, contrary to Administration rhetoric, would banning mixed-status families increase the total amount of rental assistance available for eligible people.

Instead of taking assistance away from people who meet eligibility requirements, policymakers should boost rental assistance funding and give more people the housing stability they need to thrive.

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