Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is scrambling to quell justified concerns about illegal immigrants accessing her Newcomer Rental Subsidy Program after the Office of Global Michigan began providing data to the media that was requested by Republican lawmakers weeks ago.

Both the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News have recently published articles defending the program from questions raised by Michigan Republican lawmakers and former President Donald Trump about potential abuse by illegal immigrants seeking asylum to avoid deportation.

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Michigan House Republican Leader Matt Hall, of Richland Township, and Rep. Jamie Thompson, R-Brownstown Township, requested an audit of the program last week after receiving no response from the OGM on questions about eligibility loopholes and published guidelines for the program that allow anyone “with a pending asylum application” to access up to $500 per month in rental assistance for a year.

The program is one of several designed by Michigan Democrats to provide taxpayer-funded aid to support and attract immigrants. Others include a proposed $8 million in Whitmer’s budget for next fiscal year to provide legal services to migrants, and a more than $700,000 announced in February to help them integrate in Michigan communities.

Whitmer said at a press conference in Grand Rapids on Monday that “if you are here illegally, I do not believe that you should have access” to the newcomer rental subsidy program, providing a direct response to attacks from Trump about the “scam,” The Detroit News reports.

“She’s calling this scam the Newcomer Rental Subsidy,” Trump said in a recent video posted to Truth Social. “In other words, she’s calling illegal immigrants, many coming from jails, many coming from mental institutions, many … terrorists … newcomers. Isn’t that wonderful?”

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Michigan Republicans have noted the vast majority of asylum claims are defensive claims, filed by illegal immigrants caught in the country to avoid deportation.

Poppy Hernandez, executive director of the Office of Global Michigan, promised The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press the office’s “standard” blocks illegal immigrants with defensive asylum claims, despite the published guidelines that suggest otherwise.

“OGM has and will continue to apply this standard in the strictest terms possible when determining eligibility,” Hernandez said of the internal, unpublished “standard.”

Data from the federal government, which funds $5 million of the program’s rental subsidies, and the OGM shows 46% of the 1,166 with known immigration status receiving subsidies are refugees, including Afghans brought to the United States through Operation Allies Welcome, according to media reports. Others are U.S. citizens or lawful residents, Ukrainian humanitarian parolees, or individuals approved for asylum from places like Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the OGM claims. The program has a total of 1,242 enrolled, and the state has no data on the immigration status of 76 of them.

The OGM told the Detroit Free Press “applications with a pending defensive asylum hearing are not eligible.” While the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement restricts use of newcomer rental subsidies to Ukrainian and Afghan refugees, $4 million in funding for the program from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority can be used for immigrants hailing from elsewhere.

Jeremiah Ward, spokesman for Michigan House Republicans, suggested Whitmer is “trying to cover for the fact that her stated rent subsidy criteria clearly included illegal aliens who got caught and then claimed asylum to avoid deportation” in comments to the Free Press on Friday.

“This is exactly why Leader Hall and House Republicans demanded transparency and accountability for this sweeping program,” he said. “The Whitmer administration must still release the information requested so Michiganders can see who received benefits before officials walked back the publicly outlined policy.”