Undocumented immigrants would be prohibited from living in public housing and other specified subsidized housing under a new Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposal.

The proposed rule, which was published May 10 in the Federal Register, would impact tens of thousands of immigrant families that include U.S. citizen children and other family members who are eligible for housing assistance, according to housing advocates who condemn the move.

“This policy is antithetical to the mission of the federal public housing program—to provide housing that is safe, decent, and affordable to low- and very low-income families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities, and administer the Housing Choice Voucher program,” said Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. “We are housers, not ICE agents, but that is exactly what HUD’s proposed rule is asking public housing authorities (PHAs) to become by requiring PHA staff to determine the immigration status of every household member and report it into a federal database.

For many watchdogs, the move isn’t about easing the housing crisis or saving federal dollars.

Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, has explained that HUD does not subsidize undocumented immigrants who live in public housing. However, families with mixed-immigration status can live in public housing as long as the family has an eligible citizen or legal resident. Ineligible members are not subsidized.

“The cruelty of [HUD] secretary [Ben] Carson’s proposal is breathtaking, and the harm it would inflict on children, families, and communities is severe,” she said “Tens of thousands of deeply poor kids, mostly U.S. citizens, could be evicted and made homeless by this proposal, and—by HUD’s own admission—there would be zero benefit to families on waiting lists. This proposal is another in a long line of attempts by the administration to instill fear in immigrants throughout the country. We will not stand for it.”

Adrianne Todman, CEO of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, also denounced the proposal.

“And, to add insult to injury, HUD's analysis says this action would increase costs to taxpayers, and likely not alleviate pressure on local waiting lists, as it previously suggested,” she said. “Evicting families, raising program costs, and forcing unfunded mandates on local communities: This is a hot mess."

Comments on the proposal are due July 9.