Trump and allies say Biden is paying rent for 'illegals' in Michigan. Not true.

“In Michigan, radical left Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is handing out $500 a month in cash to anyone who lets illegal aliens into your homes. Isn't that nice? She calls the scam the Newcomer Rental Subsidy. In other words, she calls illegal immigrants – many come from prisons, many come from mental institutions, many are terrorists – she calls them newcomers, isn't that great? And it's all funded with federal taxpayer dollars distributed by corrupt Joe Biden… Biden and Whitmer select and steal your money to give free housing to illegal alien migrants and then ask you to quarter these foreign armies. And they are, they are armies.”

– Former President Donald Trump, in a video on social media, 11 April

“Biden is helping pay the rent for newcomers to America from all over the world. You mean illegal immigrants?'

– Voiceover in MAGA Inc. advertisement entitled 'Phone Bank', April 26

“Did you see that Biden is now paying rent for illegals? They get a handout and we pay for everything.”

– radio advertisement via MAGA Inc., 'Lecture', April 26

Trump hopes to ride anger over a wave of 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 cannot resist inflating the numbers or making false claims. We have previously documented that there is no evidence that many come from prisons or mental institutions.

Now both Trump and MAGA Inc., a super PAC that backs him, are claiming that Biden supports a Michigan program that they say provides rent to undocumented immigrants. That's not true either. The subsidies in question are not available to people who are in the country illegally.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung did not respond to a question, but MAGA Inc. spokesman Alex Pfeiffer laid out in an exchange of texts 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 division of the Department of Health and Human Services, has long provided hundreds of millions of dollars annually to states and nongovernmental organizations to help refugees transition to life in the United States. States. The Office of Global Michigan supports such efforts in the state and launched the Newcomer Rental Subsidy program in October. Under this initiative, eligible individuals can receive as much as $500 per month in rental subsidies for up to twelve months.

The state says these qualified applicants include refugees, asylum seekers, people on special immigrant visas who have assisted the U.S. government abroad, human trafficking victims, Cuban and Haitian newcomers, Afghan nationals and Ukrainians granted humanitarian parole. These are all people who are legally residents of the United States.

Pfeiffer took aim at a line in the program document that lists other people who would be eligible: “individuals with a pending asylum claim.” His argument is that someone who entered the country illegally and applied for asylum can apply while a decision is still pending.

But the state says it will not consider any application with a pending defensive asylum hearing. This means that the United States has initiated removal proceedings against a migrant and he or she has sought asylum as a defense to removal, claiming, for example, that they fear persecution or torture in their home country. Most of these cases are not successful for the migrant, according to records maintained by TRAC, Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

People with asylum claims who do not face a defensive hearing have already undergone enough investigation that there is a good chance that their asylum claim will ultimately be approved.

In any case, more than half of the people eligible for housing subsidies are Afghan and Ukrainian refugees – a far cry from the murderers Trump claims are overrunning the country. About 50 percent of the 485 applications, involving 1,242 household members, have been approved, according to Whitmer's office. The figures are broken down as follows:

  • 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 into immigrant families after arriving in the United States).
  • 35 Ukrainians were granted humanitarian parole.
  • 24 asylum seekers (asylum approved and legally in the country).
  • 7 Haitian participants.
  • 5 with lawful permanent residence.

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

A Michigan spokesperson added: “Aid is only available to people who have been cleared to stay in the country after vetting by the federal government. Individuals with a pending asylum claim are legally in the country under federal guidelines, including with a work permit.”

In other words, there is a small chance that a person now legally residing in the country where asylum has been granted and housing subsidies will one day have its case rejected. The asylum process can now take years. A bipartisan group of senators, supported by Biden, this year agreed on a bill that would have reduced 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 connection Pfeiffer makes is that the program has received some federal dollars — $5 million from the refugee agency, which is primarily for Afghan, Iraqi and Ukrainian refugees, and then about $4 million for other refugees from recycled Covid-19 relief funds originally given to Michigan for housing assistance.

An HHS spokesperson said the refugee agency's funds could not be used for asylum seekers. “The Office of Refugee Resettlement only serves populations that Congress determines are eligible for services. This does not apply to those who apply for asylum,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

A White House spokesperson also disputed Trump's claims in a statement. “The claim that the U.S. government pays rent for asylum seekers is false,” the statement said. “There is no federal government program that supports rental 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 agency 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 this case.

Pfeiffer did not answer a question about that, but he issued a statement rejecting the state's requirement that people in the country illegally not receive money. “Michigan can lie to The Washington Post all it wants, but the guidelines make it clear that an illegal immigrant is eligible for this housing benefit,” Pfeiffer said.

It's the easiest political trick in the book to grab a sentence fragment and blow it out of proportion. Trump and his allies are taking the unlikely possibility — that an undocumented immigrant seeking asylum could receive housing assistance — and trying to claim this is reality.

Michigan says it will not consider applications from asylum seekers whose presence in the United States is disputed. Furthermore, this is primarily a program for refugees, such as those who assisted the United States during the war in Afghanistan. Very few people with asylum claims have received housing benefits – and the state says they are in the country legally.

The link with Biden is even more questionable. This is a state program that has received federal subsidies, but there is no indication that Biden is even aware of that. So it's absurd to run ads claiming that Biden pays rent for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Trump and MAGA Inc. earn four Pinocchios.

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