HOUSTON – Newly confirmed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson summoned reporters to Houston, Texas, on Friday to unveil what he billed as a “forward-thinking approach to affordable housing in our cities.” Reporters expressed surprise when a bus hired by HUD to transport them brought them to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in downtown Houston. The facility, which can hold nearly 1,000 people, is already overcrowded.
“Basically,” Carson told reporters as he led a tour of the concrete-and-chain-link structure, “the more people we can ship out of our cities and move to places like this, pending deportation, the more housing we’ll have available for American citizens. Then it’s just economics, supply and demand. The more houses and apartments we free up, the cheaper housing prices will be.”
The pronouncement was initially met with silence, and then the gaggle of assembled reporters began shouting questions at the famed neurosurgeon, who once declared himself unqualified to head a federal agency. The exchange became heated, and the normally affable Carson seemed surprised by the reaction of the press.
“Are we stealing people’s homes?” One reporter demanded. “Is the President’s policy to steal property from undocumented people and give it to citizens?”
“Of course we’re not stealing people’s homes,” Carson responded testily. “But if my department, Housing and Urban Development, can team up with ICE, we can free up a lot of housing stock.”
This did nothing to assuage the crowd. “We’re going to deport people to take their homes?” Another reporter called out. “Are we South Africa now?”
Carson ended the event hastily and departed separately from the press, which was escorted by armed ICE agents back to their bus and began filing reports right away. Minutes later, the White House dispatched Reince Priebus to MSNBC’s Morning Joe for damage control. When asked whether the administration supported Carson’s plan, Priebus replied, “Who?”
“Ben Carson, the new HUD secretary,” Mika Brzezinski hectored him. “He’s your HUD secretary. He ran for president last year. He’s the brain surgeon.”
“I swear to God, Mika,” Priebus replied. “I have no idea who you’re talking about. I wish you guys could stop with the partisanship and the gotcha journalism and just do your jobs.”
Asked for comment at the White House, Sean Spicer requested anonymity before ducking into a janitorial closet until reporters were ushered away from the area by security.