Carson on HUD eviction plan: 'You take care of your own first'

House lawmakers sparred Tuesday over a plan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove thousands of immigrant families from federally subsidized homes.

In a heated hearing with HUD Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon Carson'Housing First' approach won't solve homelessness crisis Clarence Thomas blasts his Biden-led confirmation hearings: 'The idea was to get rid of me' Affordable housing crisis demands urgent, sustained action MORE, Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE’s housing chief for what they called an inhumane and ineffective proposal to evict undocumented immigrants from federal housing.

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“The ‘D’ in HUD does not stand for ‘deportation,’ ” said Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyRepublicans push back on expanding paid family leave beyond federal workers Top Republican requests House hearing with DOJ inspector general Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe MORE (D-N.Y.). “We cannot create affordable housing for Americans by throwing other Americans out in the street with no place to go.”

HUD announced in April it would tighten regulations barring immigrants in the country illegally from receiving federal housing benefits. While families with at least one member eligible for HUD programs are currently allowed to live in federally subsidized housing, Carson’s proposal would evict all households led by undocumented immigrants. 

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HUD estimates that 32,000 federally subsidized households and 55,000 children would be subject to evictions under its proposal. That could force thousands of U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, along with legal permanent residents, refugees, and asylum-seekers, into homelessness.

“I hope and pray that you rethink that,” said Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasLawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation MORE (D-Calif.), adding that he couldn’t believe “that this rule could come from you.”

“I don’t think you’re mean-spirited at all,” Vargas continued. “I have to say, taking these 55,000 children and putting them on the street is mean-spirited. I don’t think it’s your nature.”

Carson and House Republicans insisted Tuesday that the evictions are necessary to comply with federal law and cut down a waiting list of more than 4 million U.S. citizens seeking HUD-subsidized housing.

“It’s not that we’re cruel, mean-hearted. It’s that we are logical,” Carson said. “This is common sense. You take care of your own first.”

The secretary compared the eviction proposal to a flight crew advising airplane passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others with theirs.

“It’s the same concept,” Carson added. “It seems only logical that tax-paying American citizens should be taken care of first.”

Throughout his term as HUD chief, Carson has been criticized by Democrats for proposals to ease more Americans out of public housing, cut spending on development grants, and its handling of disaster relief funding.

HUD’s eviction proposal launched a new wave of backlash from Democrats as the Trump administration and Republicans pushed forward with similar initiatives to cut other federal benefits for undocumented immigrants, including Medicaid and food stamps.

“I applaud you because as an American citizen, we should put Americans first,” said Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyJuan Williams: Trump has nothing left but smears On The Money: Trump seeks to shift spotlight from impeachment to economy | Appropriators agree to Dec. 20 funding deadline | New study says tariffs threaten 1.5M jobs Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Wis.) to Carson.

Democrats ripped Carson on Tuesday for putting thousands of U.S.-born children at risk of homelessness to help solve what he called an “affordable housing crisis,” while proposing budget cuts to crucial housing programs.

“Do you understand why this sounds like you’re talking from both sides of your mouth?” asked Rep. Nydia VelazquezNydia Margarita VelasquezLive coverage: Zuckerberg testifies before House on Facebook's Libra project Waters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing plans Facebook, Google, Amazon to face questions about competition on Capitol Hill MORE (D-N.Y.). “This budget is shameful. It’s immoral. It fails American citizens just for the sake of scoring political points.”

Tensions ran high among the Financial Services panel members as they debated the HUD proposal. After Velazquez criticized Carson for his “hypocritical” defense of the eviction rule, Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) apologized to the secretary for the “bad behavior” of his Democratic colleagues.

“That’s a little selfish,” Posey said.

“What did you say?” Velazquez shot back. “You call me selfish? For fighting here for children in America? Shame on you.”

Carson acknowledged the potential toll of the eviction proposal, but noted that households subject to eviction under the proposal would have up to 18 months to defer their removal while they seek other housing.

The secretary also said that Congress could pass a comprehensive immigration reform law to expand federal benefits to certain immigrants and mixed status families and address the root of the issue facing HUD.

“If someone can tell me how to follow the law and still take care of their issue, I’ll hear it,” Carson said. “Until we’re willing collectively, both Democrats and Republicans, to sit down and solve the problem, we’re going to continue to have these problems pop up.”

Trump last week unveiled an immigration reform proposal that was immediately shot down by Democrats, and it’s highly unlikely that lawmakers will strike a deal with the White House on the president's signature issue before the election.