The Whitmer administration’s efforts to provide immigrants with $500 per month in taxpayer-funded housing subsidies is prompting questions from Republicans that have so far gone unanswered.

Office of Global Michigan Director Poppy Sias-Hernandez last week responded to an inquiry on the details of the Newcomer Rental Subsidy program from House Republican Leader Matt Hall and Housing Subcommittee Republican Vice Chair Joe Aragona, promising answers by April 1.

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

On Thursday, Hall and Aragona highlighted their concerns as they continue to wait for a response.

The newcomer program, created last year with funds from the state’s Housing and Community Development Fund, provides immigrants $500 a month in rental assistance for up to a year. Democrats in 2023 approved a law to automatically deposit $50 million in annual tax revenues into the fund every year. The newcomer program allows those with a pending asylum application to apply, including those who filed a defensive asylum application in an effort to avoid deportation.

Hall and Aragona note the defensive claims constitute 97% of all asylum claims filed in fiscal year 2023.

“Gretchen Whitmer’s rent subsidy program makes handouts available to illegal aliens who were caught in the country and then claimed asylum to avoid deportation,” said Hall, R-Richland Township. “They could get a year of taxpayer-funded housing – an incentive to stay in the country and in Michigan after making a frivolous asylum claim. Michiganders shouldn’t have their dollars taken to reward those who broke our immigration laws.”

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

The Republicans sent a letter to Sias-Hernandez on March 27 outlining that concern and others, and requested data on the number of asylum seekers receiving taxpayer funds through the program.

“Resources are finite and must be allocated judiciously to ensure the program is available to the refugees and others for whom it is intended, and it is critical that the program aligns with its intended goals and prioritizes those who have gone through the process correctly and are not facing imminent removal from the United States,” Hall and Aragona wrote. “We are concerned that support for those vulnerable populations may be at risk because of the increasing number of people who are coming into the state illegally and drawing from these funds.”

Other concerns centered on the program’s eligibility and employment criteria, and the loopholes available to avoid them. The lawmakers pointed to an available exemption for required full-time work that allows applicants to opt out by citing short-term or long-term incapacity. Another exemption allows applicants to forgo the program’s income verification requirement by citing “cash payments” as a valid reason for not providing documentation.

“On its face, this appears to be a wide-open door for people who are in the country illegally completely bypassing the verification to access the limited funds,” the letter read.

Still other concerns center on identify verification, which allows for an “alternative identification document” or any “government-issued identification document.”

The lawmakers want to know who is using the newcomer program, criteria the Office of Global Michigan and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority use to prioritize recipients, and the number of participants granted employment and income verification exemptions.

“Sias-Hernandez replied last week that the office would provide answers by close of business this past Monday, but the lawmakers have not received the promised response more than a week after making the request,” according to the Republican news release.

Aragona, R-Clinton Township, pointed the potential for bad actors to exploit the subsidy program.

“Our system is bogged down with fake asylum-seekers,” he said. “There are many people who are here as refugees because it’s dangerous for them to go back. But fake asylum seekers are just taking advantage of a legal loophole, and they could now be getting their housing paid. That’s not fair to American citizens, that’s not fair to refugees who immigrated legally to escape danger, and that’s not fair to families who are struggling to pay their own bills.”

The lawmakers contend the taxpayer-funded program rewards and incentivizes illegal immigration, resulting in deadly consequences for legal residents. The duo pointed to two murders committed by illegal immigrants in Kent County in just the last year, as well as three illegal immigrants arrested for soliciting sex from minors in Shiawassee County in 2024.

“Americans watch with horror as Democrats respond with carelessness to our border crisis — a humanitarian disaster that results in violent crimes right here in Michigan,” Hall said. “Joe Biden refuses to secure the border and faithfully execute our laws. Gretchen Whitmer is offering taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens who got caught after entering our country. These politicians must stop aiding and abetting illegal aliens and get serious about securing our border and keeping people safe.”