Michigan House Republicans
Whitmer program offers rent assistance to people who illegally entered U.S.
RELEASE|April 4, 2024

Whitmer administration promised answers by Monday but has since gone dark

House Republican Leader Matt Hall and Housing Subcommittee Republican Vice Chair Joe Aragona on Thursday criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Newcomer Rental Subsidy program that offers benefits to people who entered the country illegally but later claimed asylum after facing deportation.

The program, which Whitmer’s agencies created last year using funds from the state’s Housing and Community Development Fund (HCDF), offers various immigrant households up to $500 a month in rental assistance for up to 12 months. The program criteria even allow individuals with a pending asylum application to receive support, including people who came into the United States illegally and then filed a defensive asylum application as a tactic in removal proceedings. Defensive claims comprised 97% of total asylum claims filed in fiscal year 2023, according to data from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Gretchen Whitmer’s rent subsidy program makes handouts available to illegal aliens who were caught in the country and then claimed asylum to avoid deportation,” said Hall, R-Richland Township. “They could get a year of taxpayer-funded housing — an incentive to stay in the country and in Michigan after making a frivolous asylum claim. Michiganders shouldn’t have their dollars taken to reward those who broke our immigration laws.”

Hall and Aragona last Wednesday sent a letter to Whitmer’s Office of Global Michigan (OGM), which administers the Newcomer Rental Subsidy program with Whitmer’s Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), requesting data about benefit recipients, including how many defensive asylum seekers have received assistance. The lawmakers also raised concerns about loopholes in the employment criteria that allow recipients to avoid the work requirements. Additionally, loopholes in the income criteria offer benefits to individuals earning more than the income caps if they reside in certain qualified census tracts, and applicants can avoid providing proof of income if they’re receiving cash payments, something that seems geared toward accommodating under-the-table work.

Identity verification requirements also contain concerning loopholes. An applicant must provide some form of photo ID, but the options include an “alternate identification document” and any “government-issued identification document,” even as some local governments, such as Kalamazoo County, issue IDs for illegal immigrants.

Aragona said bad actors with a pending asylum application could exploit the sweeping criteria in the subsidy program and divert funds from people in need, including refugees and other immigrants who came to the United States the right way.

“Our system is bogged down with fake asylum-seekers,” said Aragona, R-Clinton Township. “There are many people who are here as refugees because it’s dangerous for them to go back. But fake asylum seekers are just taking advantage of a legal loophole, and they could now be getting their housing paid. That’s not fair to American citizens, that’s not fair to refugees who immigrated legally to escape danger, and that’s not fair to families who are struggling to pay their own bills.”

OGM Director Poppy Sias-Hernandez replied last week that the office would provide answers by close of business this past Monday, but the lawmakers still have not received the promised response more than a week after making the request.

Hall said allowing individuals who entered the country illegally to receive taxpayer-funded assistance would reward and incentivize illegal immigration amid a border security crisis perpetuated by Joe Biden’s administration. The crisis has reared its head in Michigan with two murders committed by illegal aliens in Kent County in the last year, including a brutal killing last month, and an illegal alien arrested earlier this year for attempting to solicit sex with a minor.

“Americans watch with horror as Democrats respond with carelessness to our border crisis — a humanitarian disaster that results in violent crimes right here in Michigan,” Hall said. “Joe Biden refuses to secure the border and faithfully execute our laws. Gretchen Whitmer is offering taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens who got caught after entering our country. These politicians must stop aiding and abetting illegal aliens and get serious about securing our border and keeping people safe.”

OGM and MSHDA are using funds from the HCDF, which is used to support a variety of state housing programs. Last year, Democrats passed a controversial tax law along nearly party lines that will automatically deposit $50 million in tax revenues into the HCDF every year going forward.

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