Legislators call for HUD watchdog probe following report agency lied about DACA policy change

Legislators call for HUD watchdog probe following report agency lied about DACA policy change
Image via Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore.

Congressional Democrats are calling on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general to open an investigation into the agency’s denial of federal housing loans to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and subsequent denials by agency officials, including HUD Sec. Ben Carson, to federal legislators that they had made such a policy change.

“Despite DACA recipients being able to receive FHA-backed loans during the Obama administration, in December 2018 news reports indicated that HUD was quietly denying these loans to DACA recipients without an official announcement of any changes in the agency’s policy,” legislators say in a statement. However, “Facing questions in April 2019, Sec. Carson denied knowing anything about the change in FHA policy,” they continue.

The call from Democratic legislators including New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez and Congress members Juan Vargas and Pete Aguilar of California comes just days after BuzzFeed News reported that emails obtained by watchdog group Democracy Forward through the Freedom of Information Act show HUD “made a specific internal decision by August 2018” to block DACA recipients from these loans while publicly insisting to Congress that it hadn’t.

Legislators note numerous lies and contradictions from HUD officials, including Carson. In one notable statement to the House Financial Services Committee last May, Carson told Vargas that, “[T]he same policy has been in place since 2003, which was reaffirmed in 2015 by the previous administration, and we have not made any changes to that whatsoever.” Several weeks prior, legislators said HUD also “told Housing Wire that HUD, the FHA, the Department of Agriculture, and Fannie Mae were not denying mortgages to DACA recipients.”

However, in its report, BuzzFeed News said, “The newly obtained emails show that HUD officials were telling lenders not to approve FHA-backed loans from at least early 2018, and that they had made a specific decision by that August to use an employment authorization category that only applies to DACA recipients to justify excluding them, though it’s not clear why that category was considered disqualifying.”

If it seems like something’s fishy, welcome to the aquarium. “Specifically we are concerned that HUD imposed a new, nonpublic, and legally erroneous policy prohibiting the issuance of FHA-insured loans to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” legislators tell the inspector general, “and knowingly misrepresented to Congress the implementation and enforcement of this new policy.” These days, it can be hard to keep up with the Trump administration’s criminal actions, but that it would lie to Congress in the name of continuing to stick it to immigrants is yet another gross low.

“It’s unacceptable for the Trump Administration to secretly change the rules to stop DACA recipients from achieving the dream of home ownership. It’s equally unacceptable that the HUD Secretary would lie to Congress about the Trump administration’s discriminatory housing practices,” Aguilar said in the statement. “We’re demanding an investigation because it’s wrong and unlawful for the Trump administration to implement new and discriminatory housing policies and attempt to hide the truth from the Congress and the American people.”

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