Contradictions from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration about her Newcomer Rental Subsidy program for migrants is prompting more questions from Republicans concerned about abuse.

Richland Township Republican House Leader Matt Hall and Clinton Township Republican Rep. Joe Aragona on Monday requested more information about Whitmer’s program to provide $500 monthly rental subsidies for migrants through the Office of Global Michigan.

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The request follows prior inquiries in March and April that were ignored by the administration until after the OGM discussed issues raised by Republicans with the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News.

On April 19, OGM Executive Director Poppy Sias Hernandez issued an email to legislative leaders to “debunk disinformation and other conspiracy theories” that Hall and Aragona contend contradict with statements to the media and the program’s criteria listed online.

“As we stated in our letter last month, or foremost concern about this program is that the eligibility criteria include individuals who entered the country illegally and filed a defensive claim for asylum to delay deportation after they got arrested,” Hall and Aragona wrote to Sias Hernandez on Monday.

“The data you provided regarding the number of people with a pending asylum application who have received a rent subsidy does not mean that asylum seekers are ineligible. The NRS program summary online clearly states that ‘individuals with a pending asylum application’ are eligible for rent assistance.”

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In her letter to lawmakers, Sias Hernandez wrote “All of OGM’s service populations have lawful presence, and include refugees supported by local resettlement agencies, humanitarian asylees (i.e. Ukrainian, Haitian, Cuban, and Afghan), and asylum seekers who are lawfully present and awaiting work authorization.”

Sias Hernandez told lawmakers the program has approved 245 of 485 applications, impacting 1,242 household members. They include 537 refugees, 504 Afghans, 69 special immigrant visas, 61 U.S. citizens born to immigrant families in the country, 35 Ukrainian humanitarian parolees, 24 asylees, 7 Haitian entrants, and “5 with Lawful Permanent Residence.”

“The statement in your letter that ‘all of OGM’s service populations have lawful presence’ does not refute” the concern about defensive asylum seekers, Hall and Argona wrote in response, “as even defensive asylum seekers who entered the country illegally are technically ‘lawfully present’ once they’ve made this legal maneuver until their claims are adjudicated.

“Many of them reside in our country for six to 10 years before they even receive a hearing,” they wrote.

Hall and Argona also raised concerns with the phrasing about subsidies for asylum seekers “awaiting work authorization.”

“This seems to contradict what OGM told the Detroit Free Press – that your office would deny subsidies to any defensive asylum seeker, despite the published eligibility criteria indicating the opposite,” they wrote. “The phrase ‘awaiting work authorization’ is also alarming, as both the published criteria and OGM comments to the Free Press say that individuals must already have a federal Employment Authorization Document to qualify for” Newcomer Rental Subsidies.

Other issues raised by Hall and Argona center on apparent conflicts between federal mandates that exclude federal funds for “individuals with a pending asylum application,” and several exemptions available through the newcomer program that allow participants to circumvent employment and income requirements.

The OGM is 90% funded by the federal government and must follow federal mandates to utilize the funds.

“OGM’s published guidance appears specifically to differ from federal standards in extending eligibility to defensive asylum seekers,” the Republican leaders wrote. “All of those exceptions provide a path to state benefits for individuals who entered the country illegally.”

Hall and Argona want the OGM to clarify whether asylum seekers are eligible for the program, information on denied applications, whether those awaiting work authorization qualify, and the purpose of the income verification exemptions.

The lawmakers also requested a breakdown of the OGM’s federal funding, and eligibility mandates that come with it.