The Trump administration is upping the ante in its war on undocumented immigrants with a new proposal to boot them from public housing — all in the name of helping “the most vulnerable” Americans.

But immigration activists and advocates for low-income Americans say all the White House’s plan would do is leave thousands of children, who are American citizens, potentially homeless.

“This is a punitive move, not a substantive one,” said Rachel Garland, a housing law attorney with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. That’s about as polite a way to describe “fear-mongering” as you’re likely to hear this week.

Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development floated a new rule expanding the Homeland Security-administered Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, or SAVE.

The goal here, as first reported by the conservative Daily Caller, is to tighten up verification procedures that allowed some undocumented immigrants to obtain public housing without disclosing their legal status, The New York Times and other outlets reported.

Which sounds great and all, until, as usual, you get to the fine print.

As CityLab reports, HUD has long allowed families to live together in federally subsidized housing, even if one member of the family is in the country illegally. Typically, that means that the head of a household, such as a mother or father, might be undocumented, while their children are citizens.

Under the proposed HUD rule, if the SAVE program determines that even one member of a household is undocumented, that would be enough to get an entire family booted from public housing — even if that person is not accepting any subsidized benefit, Garland said.

Surprising no one, HUD Secretary Ben Carson took an entirely incorrect victory lap, writing on Twitter that “Thanks to (President Donald Trump’s) leadership, we are putting America’s most vulnerable first.” The most vulnerable — like kids who are American citizens, who’d be “penalized” through no fault of their own and likely be forced into “substandard” housing?

If the rule is eventually implemented, about 32,000 families nationwide would be affected. That’s less than a drop in the bucket compared to the “1.6 million families on public housing waiting lists and more than 2.8 million families on Housing Choice Voucher waiting lists (or Section 8),” according to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Betty Cruz, of the Pittsburgh-based immigrant advocacy campaign All for All, said she sees the administration’s action as the latest in a long line attempting to reduce immigrants — legal and undocumented alike — to a “scapegoat or a bogeyman.”

In the end, the damage is collateral — a fact that was driven home to Cruz when she went door-knocking in Pittsburgh recently. She said she was surprised to hear of the “severity” of the challenges facing the immigrant community.

“It was encouraging to get out there and knock on doors, to have (people) take an interest,” she said. “These policies don’t just affect the immigrant community. They affect all of us.”

John Micek, an award-winning political journalist, is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at