Editor's Pick 29-04-2024 13:01 9 Views

Trump and allies say Biden pays rent for ‘illegals’ in Michigan. Not true.

“In Michigan, radical, left Democrat governor Gretchen Whitmer is handing out $500 a month in cash to anyone who accepts illegal aliens into your homes. Isn’t that nice? She’s calling the scam the Newcomer Rental Subsidy. In other words, she’s calling illegal immigrants — many coming from jails, many coming from mental institutions, many are terrorists — she’s calling them newcomers, isn’t that wonderful? And it’s all funded by federal taxpayer dollars distributed by crooked Joe Biden … Biden and Whitmer are selecting and stealing your money to give free housing to illegal alien migrants and then asking you to quarter these foreign armies. And that’s what they are, they’re armies.”

— Former president Donald Trump, in a social media video, April 11

“Biden’s helping pay rent for newcomers to America from around the world. You mean illegal immigrants?”

— Voice-over in MAGA Inc. ad titled “Phone Bank,” April 26

“Did you see Biden’s paying rent for illegals now? They get handouts and we pay for all of it.”

— radio ad via MAGA Inc., “Lecture,” April 26

Trump is hoping to ride anger over a surge in undocumented immigrants to victory in the presidential race this fall. The number of undocumented immigrants since President Biden took office is certainly large — at least 5 million people — but Trump can’t resist pumping up the numbers or making false claims. We’ve previously documented that there is no evidence that many are coming from jails or mental institutions.

Now, both Trump and MAGA Inc., a super PAC that backs him, claim that Biden is backing a Michigan program that they say provides rent to undocumented immigrants. That’s also false. The subsidies in question are not available to people in the country illegally.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung did not respond to a query but MAGA Inc. spokesman Alex Pfeiffer, in exchanges of texts, laid out the Rube Goldberg method by which Trump and his allies have tried to pin this on Biden.

The federal government, through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, has long provided hundreds of millions of dollars a year to states and nongovernment organizations to help refugees transition to life in the United States. The Office of Global Michigan supports such efforts in the state, and in October launched the Newcomer Rental Subsidy program. Under this initiative, for up to 12 months individuals who qualify may receive as much as $500 a month in rental subsidies.

The state says these qualified applicants include refugees, asylees, people with special immigrant visas who helped the U.S. government overseas, victims of human trafficking, Cuban and Haitian entrants, Afghan nationals and Ukrainians granted humanitarian parole. These are all people legally in the United States.

Pfeiffer zeroed in on a line in the program document that lists other people who would be eligible: “individuals with a pending asylum application.” His argument is that someone who illegally entered the country and claimed asylum could apply while a decision is pending.

But the state says that it will not consider any application with a pending defensive asylum hearing. That means that the United States has begun removal proceedings against a migrant and he or she requested asylum as a defense against removal because, for instance, they claim fear of persecution or torture in their home country. Most of those cases are not successful for the migrant, according to data maintained by TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

People with asylum claims who are not facing a defensive hearing have already gone through enough scrutiny that odds are their asylum applications ultimately will be approved.

In any case, more than half of the people who have been approved for rental subsidies are Afghan and Ukrainian refugees — a far cry from the murderers that Trump claims are overrunning the country. According to Michigan officials, about 50 percent of 485 applications have been approved, affecting 1,242 household members. The numbers break down like this:

537 refugees.504 Afghans who arrived under Operation Allies Welcome.69 with special immigrant visas (individuals from Iraq or Afghanistan who worked for the U.S. government).61 U.S. citizens (children born to immigrant families after arriving in the United States).35 Ukrainians granted humanitarian parole.24 asylees (asylum approved and legally in the country).7 Haitian entrants.5 with lawful permanent residence.

Note that only a small percentage — about 2 percent — even claimed asylum. “The Office of Global Michigan only approves residents who are in the country legally as determined by the federal government,” said Jason Moon, communications director for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

A State of Michigan spokesperson added: “Assistance is only available to people approved to be in the country by the federal government after vetting. Individuals with a pending asylum application are in the country legally under federal guidelines, including with work authorization.”

In other words, there is a slim possibility that a person now legally in the country under asylum and granted rental subsidies might one day have their case rejected. The asylum process now can take years. A bipartisan group of senators, backed by Biden, this year reached agreement on a bill that would have cut the time for asylum processing to six months. But Trump successfully convinced Republicans to reject that deal.

What does Biden have to do with this small state program? The link pitched by Pfeiffer is that the program received some federal dollars — $5 million from the refugee office, which is primarily for Afghan, Iraqi and Ukrainian refugees, and then about $4 million for other refugees from repurposed covid relief funds originally given to Michigan for housing support.

An HHS spokesman said the refugee office funds could not be used for asylum seekers. “The Office of Refugee Resettlement only serves populations that Congress has deemed eligible for services. This does not include those who are seeking asylum,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

A White House spokesman also disputed Trump’s claims in a statement. “The assertion that the U.S. government pays rent for asylum seekers is false,” the statement said. “There is no federal government program that supports rent assistance for asylum seekers. If Republican elected officials truly cared about fixing the broken immigration system and securing our border, they would support the bipartisan border security agreement instead of blocking it for partisan politics.”

During the Trump administration, the refugee office also funneled dollars to states and organizations to provide time-limited cash and medical assistance to refugees and all other eligible populations, so it’s hard to see what’s different in the case.

Pfeiffer did not answer a question about that but he issued a statement that dismissed the state’s insistence that people in the country illegally would not receive funds. “Michigan can lie to The Washington Post all it wants, but its guidelines make it clear that an illegal immigrant is eligible for this rental subsidy,” Pfeiffer said.

It’s the easiest political trick in the book to seize on a sentence fragment and blow it out of proportion. Trump and his allies are taking an unlikely possibility — that an undocumented immigrant claiming asylum might receive rental assistance — and are trying to assert it’s the reality.

Michigan says it does not consider applications from asylum seekers whose presence in the United States is being challenged. Moreover, this is mainly a program for refugees like those who assisted the United States during the war in Afghanistan. Very few people with asylum claims have received rental assistance — and the state says they are in the country legally.

The link to Biden is even more dubious. This is a state program that has received federal grant money, but there is no indication that Biden is even aware of it. So it’s absurd to run ads that claim Biden is paying rent for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Trump and MAGA Inc. earn Four Pinocchios.

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This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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