Social Policy

Local Issues Director: Joyce Hothan, The League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn

Our chapter of the League follows major issues of interest to our membership; each area is the responsibility of a local issues director.  They track legislation and items of particular timely interest. Our Observer Corps attends meetings to report back to the board and members on key issues.

LATEST REPORT: October 9, 2018


Housing Action Illinois Annual Conference “Housing Matters”

Update on Immigration  and U.S. “Zero Tolerance Policy”

 Investigators with Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General published a report that stated that immigration officials were not prepared this spring to manage the consequences of the “Zero Tolerance Policy “ enacted at the US Southwest Border and were troubled from the outset by planning shortfalls, widespread communication failures and administrative indifference to the separation of small children from their parents.

 This was the first time that criticism of the administration’s policy came from an independent internal watchdog group.

 The report stated the policy resulted in nearly 3,000 children separated from their parents. The confusion and resulting misinformation lead these separated parents to not know the reason for the separation, where the children were taken or how to reach them as well as longer detention stays.

 Based on observations conducted by DHS inspectors at multiple facilities along the border in late June, agents separated children too young to talk from parents in a way that courted disaster.  Also 860 migrant children were left in Border Patrol holding cells longer than the 72-hour limit mandated by U.S. courts.

 This move prompted national and international outrage at the time and President Trump eventually signed an executive order stopping the separations.

 The Inspector General’s Report also found that U.S. Customs and Border Protection restricted the flow of asylum seekers at legal ports of entry and may have inadvertently prompted them to cross illegally. One woman said that an officer had turned her away three times, so she crossed illegally.

 Even through hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded- an increase of fivefold from last summer.

 Data suggest a total of 12,800 migrant children are being held as of the month of September. This increase is not due to an influx of children entering the country but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors.

 New data reported to Congress shows that despite the administration’s efforts to discourage Central American migrants, roughly the same number of children are crossing as in years past. The big difference however is that red tape and fear brought by stricter immigration enforcement have discouraged relatives and family friends from coming forward to sponsor children. Historically children categorized as “unaccompanied” have been placed with sponsors as soon as they can be vetted. Monthly releases have plummeted by two-thirds since last year.

 The feeling is that the longer children are detained, the more anxious and depressed they are likely to become. The fear is that children may then try to harm themselves or escape or can become violent with staff or each other.

 New facilities have been constructed or arranged by contract but they too are nearing capacity.

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Affordable Housing Update

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has asked Congress to enact the “Making Housing Work Act of 2018”. If passed the changes in how rent is calculated could impact 4.7 million families HUD helps to obtain affordable housing.

It would triple rents from $50 to $150 for some of the neediest  families and increase the share of other poor families from 30% of their gross income to 35%. It would also eliminate deductions to income for child care and medical expenses, affecting families with young children as well as being costly for older adults with steep medical bills.

Overall, the analysis shows that in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, low-income tenants-many of whom have jobs-would have to pay roughly 20% more each year for rent. According to an analysis by the Charleston Housing Authority, that works out to about six times greater than the growth in average hourly earning for poor workers in this country, already a population at significant risk of homelessness.

The proposal is part of an array of proposals set forth to scale back the social safety net with the belief that being less generous will cause those receiving federal assistance to get jobs. Secretary Carson was quoted as saying “It ‘s our attempt to give poor people a way out of poverty”.

Affordable housing advocates like Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition states that “This proposal to raise rents on low-income people doesn’t magically create well-paying jobs needed to lift people out of poverty.”

“Making Housing Work Act of 2018” would also allow a number of state housing authorities the ability to impose work requirements. This would make it the third program besides Medicaid and SNAP or food stamps to allow for the imposition of work rules.

According to the National Low Income Coalition only 6% of households receiving aid include adults who are not elderly and physically able to work but don’t. Housing advocates generally feel it is based on a faulty premise that most public housing residents don’t have jobs and that rent increases will incentivize work.