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 CarsonYes, President Trump, we do have a homelessness crisis and you're making it harder for us to address New HUD rule would eliminate housing stability for thousands of students Carson defends transgender comments, hits media for 'mischaracterizations' MORE, Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? 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 MaloneyNew York Democratic congresswoman hospitalized Cast and crew of 'Unbelievable' join lawmakers to advocate for reducing DNA, rape kit backlog O'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats 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. VargasHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment ICE does not know how many veterans it has deported, watchdog says Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment 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 DuffyFormer Rep. Sean Duffy and wife Rachel Campos-Duffy welcome 9th child Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Duffy explains why unborn child's health caused him to resign from Congress 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 VelasquezFacebook, Google, Amazon to face questions about competition on Capitol Hill Democrats seize on viral Sharpie hashtags to mock Trump map edit Hispanic Democrats: ICE raids designed to distract from Trump ties to Epstein 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.