Stroll through Colorado Springs, or other cities and towns, and one sees a common tragedy. People live in sleeping bags, tents and boxes. This, during one of history’s greatest eras of economic growth.
At least 20 percent of homeless men are veterans, most with backgrounds in combat. They fought for our freedom to live warm, safe and free. Yet, they live on the ground — cold, endangered and oppressed by poverty.
The rest of the homeless demographic consists of men, women, children, and families from all backgrounds. The causes are complex, but all of these people have one thing in common. They all need homes.
Most of the homeless could qualify for federal housing assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Problem is, we lack enough subsidized housing to make a big dent. Just as free health insurance doesn’t equal health care, qualifying for a housing subsidy doesn’t magically produce a house.
People in need of subsidized housing typically wait to get on waiting lists, where they wait an additional two years or more to get a place to live — if all goes well. The demand for HUD resources far outweighs the supply.
With this in mind, it seems cruel and unconscionable that our federal government would allow tens of thousand immigrants to reside in federal housing.
The law, as stated clearly in section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act, prohibits HUD Secretary Ben Carson from providing housing to illegal immigrants. The law could not be more clear. The law was made by Congress, not by Carson.
“This is consistent with the statute’s stated goal of ensuring that HUD’s limited financial resources be used to aid families lawfully present in the United States,” explains the Federal Register.
In a Congressional hearing last week, Democrats berated Carson as cruel for stating his plan to uphold the law and evict illegal immigrants. They apparently want him to continue breaking the law.
Opponents of enforcing the law accurately point out that children born in the United States to illegal immigrants are citizens. If they live in a HUD home with illegal adults, they insist, everyone should be allowed to stay. In a perfect world, of course, everyone has a home and none are evicted.
It is heart-wrenching to visualize our government evicting adults from a home lawfully occupied by one or more of their young children. Yet, citizens and legal residents with children get evicted from private property every day for the inability to pay rent. Many of those are waiting for HUD housing, or just to get on a list.
At this point in time, our country simply cannot afford free or subsidized housing to everyone who needs it — particularly if we include those who come here from other countries seeking such benefits.
Carson told Democrats it takes at least 18 months to evict HUD tenants. That, he said, gives Congress 18 months to finally pass a comprehensive immigration reform package that is decades past due.
The homeless crisis, combined with the affordable and subsidized housing shortage, presents Americans with no easy solutions. That leaves the difficult option: immigration reform, which Republicans and Democrats have refused to accomplish for political reasons.
Democrats won’t control the border without reform; Republicans will not pass reform without border control. Each party exploits the issue with callous disregard for the human beings harmed each day by the chaos resulting from gridlock.
With air-tight border control and surgical reform of immigration and refugee policies and practices, our country could regulate immigration the way the Federal Reserve controls the currency supply. The border should work as a precision valve, bringing into this country the people our economy and culture needs and can support. People who come here should have jobs adequate to keep them and their children off subsidized housing.
American citizens should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for federal housing assistance. They do so only because of their government’s sloppy and inhumane immigration system.
Washington politicians need to fix this mess. They have 18 months, per official notice of Carson. If they don’t act, voters should evict them from Congress.
The Gazette editorial board
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