Proposed HUD Rule will Separate Thousands of Immigrant Families

By: Camille Garcia-Mendoza

In July, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights joined Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Urban Affairs and other affiliates to fight against a rule pushed by the Trump administration that would separate immigrant families using subsidized housing. The rule, proposed in May by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, would bar mixed-eligibility families (families with members who are both eligible and ineligible for federal housing subsidies) from living in public housing or using Section 8 programs.

The Proposed Rule will Hurt Immigrant Families

Immigrant families are directly targeted by this rule. Since people without legal documentation are ineligible for public housing benefits, families of mixed- immigration status will be forced to either separate or stay together and risk facing eviction.  If it passes, the rule could strip shelter from over 108,000 vulnerable individuals, including over 55,000 children

Our public comment discusses the devastating effects this proposed rule would have on low-income immigrant families. By HUD’s own analysis, most mixed-status families would forgo their housing benefits. This would put thousands at risk of homelessness and place significant cost burdens on already struggling families. Eviction has also been shown to lead to significant health issues like depression, as well as employment loss. Cost burdened families tend to spend less on food, healthcare, and transportation, among other essential needs, and children are especially at risk to developmental challenges that make it hard to succeed in school and cause them to miss more days in the classroom. 

In addition to prohibiting mixed-status families from living with each other, the proposed rule also imposes strict citizenship verification measures on all beneficiaries of public housing. In 2006, a citizenship verification requirement was added to Medicaid, resulting in huge drops in enrollment. The proposed HUD rule would likely have a similar chilling effect, and leave many who are eligible for housing subsidies unable to claim their benefits. Moreover, these verification measures would disproportionately affect individuals with disabilities, low-income citizens, and seniors who do not have these documents readily available or would encounter barriers to accessing them.

The Proposed Rule Violates the Law

Our public comment also argues that the proposed rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act and HUD’s own statutory obligation to affirmatively further fair housing under the Fair Housing Act.

The Administrative Procedure Act mandates that agency rule-making must be in-line with Congress’ intent in creating the law being enforced by that agency. Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 explicitly allows mixed-status families to remain in public housing, as long as subsidies are allocated so that only eligible individuals receive federal assistance. Clearly, Congress’ intent was to not separate mixed-status families.

The rule also violates HUD’s legal obligation to promote fair housing under the Fair Housing Act, which requires HUD to take actions that meaningfully address barriers to housing choice. The proposed rule does the exact opposite by creating housing barriers for immigrant families. The rule will have an adverse impact on individuals on the basis of both their national origin and familial status, which are both protected classes that HUD is supposed to help. 

Help Immigrant Families Fight Back

This proposed rule serves only to erode the protections and rights of immigrant families in America, including those with and without legal documents. It is a complete misuse of federal funds for an already under-resourced agency, and will subject thousands of people, including children, to possible homelessness. 

Over 28,000 comments were submitted by July 9th, which was the closing date for comments. Now HUD must review those comments, which have the potential to persuade officials to not pursue the proposed rule. If the proposed rule goes through, advocacy groups will likely file legal challenges. 

Despite the current uncertainty around the future of this proposed rule, there are many ways you can help immigrant families targeted by the Trump administration. You can connect and donate to these organizations:

  1. Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights- ICIRR is a Chicago based advocacy organization with projects promoting civic engagement and healthcare access for immigrants.

  1. Centro Romero- Centro Romero is a community-based organization serving the refugee immigrant population on the north-east side of Chicago. Their advocacy efforts include adult education and family services.

  2. Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights- Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights focuses on helping immigrant children during deportation proceedings by providing them with an advocate. They have offices in Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York, Harlingen, and Chicago.

  3. Immigrant Defense Project- Immigrant Defense Project seeks to strengthen immigrant defense through challenging unfair laws in court, shaping policies through advocacy, and education initiatives. Its headquarters is located in New York.

  4. National Immigration Law Center- National Immigration Law Center is one of the leading organizations exclusively defending the rights of low-income immigrants through impact litigation and policy advocacy. They have headquarters in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Berkeley, CA.