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Election Integrity News Blog


Bypass a Wall. Grab a Ballot - Michigan's Newcomer Program Supports Illegal Migrants. Part 1

Updated: May 5

By Patrice Johnson | April 29, 2024

Michigan’s “newcomer” program was announced last fall. Then inquiring minds asked, “Who are these newcomers?” and “What are qualifications do they have to meet to qualify to receive up to $6,000 in monthly rent subsidies for up to a year?” Michigan lawmakers and a U.S. representative inquired. When no answers were forthcoming, the minority House Leader and a representative submitted a request for the Office of the Auditor General to audit the program. Now, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer finds herself embroiled in a political firestorm.

Part One of this series explores the Newcomer Rental Subsidy Program. Part Two will investigate the elephant in the room, a question that few seems willing to ask: With the presidential election only seven months away, is the governor’s pet program actually a funnel system for registering illegal migrants to vote? 

You be the judge.

When Michigan launched its “newcomer program” on October 23, 2023, the initiative enjoyed Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s unbridled support. Poppy Sias-Hernandez, Director of Global Michigan and Michigan’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, said the program would “increase access to better and more affordable housing opportunities while supporting a more rapid social integration to refugees and other newcomer populations to Michigan.”

The Detroit Free Press reported that the program, led by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity's Office of Global Michigan, was a “refugee assistance program meant to help new arrivals and other newcomer populations resettle and find affordable housing.

Who were these “refugees,” “new arrivals,” and “other newcomer populations?” Inquiring minds began to ask. What requirements must these immigrants meet in order to receive $300 to $500 per month, or $6,000 over a 12-month period?


The Detroit News saw the program as designed to entice the influx of immigrants. It wrote the “requirements are not stringent enough to assure taxpayers their money isn’t being used to encourage undocumented immigrants from settling here.”

Sorting through untruths and double speak

Aundreana Jones-Poole, spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, told MLive, “Only people who are legally in the country can receive federal funding under this program.”

Ms. Poole’s statement was misleading, if not flat-out false. 

Minority Leader Representative Matt Hall tweeted: 

Grand-Canyon-sized loopholes gaped within the litany of requirements in the subsidy program. For instance, “Individuals with a pending asylum application” are allowed to apply for the newcomer program, as are “other immigrant individuals,” according to the Office of Global Michigan.

In other words, applying for asylum opens a loophole for illegal migrants and allows them to buy time in the U.S.—all the while receiving a full year of housing subsidies and other untold benefits.

How great an issue?

The nonprofit Migration Policy Institute estimated 91,000 illegal migrants reside in Michigan, and more than 22,000 refugees were placed in the state from fiscal year 2013 through 2022. 

As of March 2024, 7.2 million illegal migrants are estimated to have entered the U.S. under the Biden Administration—an amount greater than the population of 36 states. (7.2M illegals entered the US under Biden Admin, an amount greater than population of 36 states.) An estimated 11 to 30 million noncitizens, which include both legal immigrants and illegal migrants, currently reside inside the U.S. Only the populations of New York and Texas have populations in excess of 30 million. Michigan weighs in at around 10 million.

Who are these “newcomers” and “other immigrants”?

The Newcomer Rental Subsidy program application is available in seven languages: Arabic, Dari, Haitian, Creole, Kinvarwanda, Pashto, Spanish, and Ukrainian.

Considering that more than 24,000 Chinese Illegally Crossed into the U.S. in Fiscal Year 2024, perhaps readers should expect Mandarin to be added to the list.

Minority House Leader Rep. Matt Hall (R) and Rep. Joseph Aragona (R) of Clinton Township requested information on the newcomer program from the Office of Global Michigan on March 27.

Rep. Aragona, (R) of Clinton Township, pointed out 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.”

They say Director Sias-Hernandez promised answers by April 1, but no answers were forthcoming.

U.S. Representative Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Township), wrote a letter to President Biden on April 3 asserting the funds “used by Governor Gretchen Whitmer…provide a rental subsidy up to $500 per month to house illegal immigrants who are claiming asylum status.”

“What sort of message is our Governor sending to the state by prioritizing migrants and illegal [migrants] from the southern border over our own citizens?” McClain asked.

Hall and Representative Jamie Thompson (R) submitted a request for audit to Office of the Auditor General (OAG) on April 11. Hall represents Plainwell, Richland, and Alamo. Thompson represents parts of Monroe and Wayne counties.

The state legislators’ letter, addressed to Auditor General Doug Ringler, stated, “We are writing to formally request an audit of the Office of Global Michigan’s newcomer rental subsidy program.”

Minority Leader Hall’s words carried more of an edge in a tweet:

“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.”

Hall added that illegal migrants could receive a year of taxpayer-funded housing, as “an incentive to stay in the country and in Michigan after making a frivolous asylum claim.”

Representatives Hall and Thompson asked the OAG to audit five specific areas of the newcomer program: How the program is verifying identification and immigration status; the timing and sufficiency of eligibility evaluations; terminations of benefits for those who are ineligible; how the program verifies employment; and how the program aligns with federal funding requirements.

Number 1 Loophole: Under threat of deportation? File a ‘defensive application’ for asylum.

Two types of applications for asylum are available: Affirmative and Defensive. The asylum seekers who declare a need for protection from their home country government upon entering the United States file Affirmative applications for asylum.

In contrast, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCISdefines a “defensive application for asylum” as a defense against removal from the United States. 

Migrants in defensive processing were apprehended after illegally entering the U.S. or a port of entry and are in removal proceedings in immigration court.

Less than half, 41%, of all defensive asylum applications were approved in fiscal year 2022, yet defensive applications made up 81of all asylum claims, according to Department of Justice data.

The chart below illustrates the skyrocketing increase in defensive asylum applications since 2021 after the Biden Administration removed most of the Trump Administration border protections. Meanwhile, the number of affirmative applications has remained low and relatively flat. The total number applications that remain pending increased to more than one million in 2023, compared to about 700,000 in 2020.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency states on its website that the Biden administration is contesting the law, and meanwhile, the USCIS is continuing to apply the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways (CLP) rule.

“Under the rule, certain individuals who enter the United States through its southwest land border or adjacent coastal borders are presumed to be ineligible for asylum, unless they can demonstrate an exception to the rule or rebut the presumption. Individuals are encouraged to use lawful, safe, and orderly pathways to come to the United States.” [emphasis added]

Number 2 Loophole: Court Backlogs

Asylum cases are backed up. Due to the flood of immigration since the Biden Administration lifted controls on illegal migration, nearly 3 million immigration cases await adjudication in court.

In 2020 before Biden became president, the nation had about 517 immigration judges. Since then, the number has increased 23% to 634, yet cases still take more than two years to be completed, according to PolitiFact.

Forty-four percent of asylum seekers fail to show up to their eventual court hearings, the DOJ reports.

Detroit had a backlog of 6,085 asylum cases in 2023, with cases taking an average of three years before a court hearing, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

Nearly 9 out of 10 (5,338 of 6,085) applications were defensive, and about 74% of those defensive claims were denied.

Critics argue that this backlog has allowed migrants who entered the country illegally to stave off removal and give authorities the slip while they await a decision and draw food, housing, medical, and rent benefits.

Number 3 Loophole: Cash Payments not counted as income, and exemptions from work requirements.

Another exemption cites “cash payments” as a valid explanation as to why applicants can provide no documentation of income. (Warning: The IRS frowns on not claiming cash income. Citizens ought not to try.)

Representatives Hall in the tweet above noted full-time work was required, but exemptions allowed applicants to opt out by citing short-term or long-term incapacity.

Number 4 Loophole: No ID required.

For photo documentation, a driver’s license, passport or green card can be used — or an “alternate identification document.”

“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,” Hall and Rep. Aragona wrote in their letter to Sias-Hernandez.

U.S. Representative McClain summarized her sentiments in a letter to President Biden, saying, “Where does the madness end?”

Patrice Johnson, chairs Michigan Fair Elections (MFE) and Pure Integrity Michigan Elections (PIME). Patrice is a former high school teacher and adjunct professor of writing and entrepreneurship. She has founded five successful companies and served as senior executive with a Fortune 100 technology company. In 2017, she authored the book, the Fall and Rise of Tyler Johnson, which became the basis of a PBS documentary film, Finding Tyler.


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Join us Saturday, May 11th for the Pure Integrity Michigan Elections

(PIME) monthly meeting.

This month's keynote speaker will be Jason Woolford, candidate for the House of Representative's 50th District. Jason, a retired Marine and now president of Mission Cry / Christian Resources International has become an established conservative leader and is running for office this November.

Jason will be discussing the importance of the evangelical vote in our coming elections as well as experiences he has had at the southern border.

Find out more about Jason at his website:

Also, as usual, get updates from the team on election legislation, upcoming events, ballot initiatives, fundraising, and on-going litigation.

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Click the link below to see our schedule for upcoming speakers, including David Kallman from Kallman Legal Group, and Bill Whitbeck of

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Michigan Fair Elections. Every article written by an MFE author is generated by the author or editor alone. Links embedded within the article, however, may have been generated by artificial intelligence.


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