Immigrants Choosing Between their Case and Welfare – Remember Not ALL Immigrants are Subject to the Public Charge Rule By Liliana Gallelli, Esq.

Sunday, May 31, 2020
Immigrants Choosing Between their Case and Welfare – Remember Not ALL Immigrants are Subject to the Public Charge Rule By Liliana Gallelli, Esq.
Immigrants Choosing Between their Case and Welfare – Remember Not ALL Immigrants are Subject to the Public Charge Rule

By Liliana Gallelli, Esq.
Access to public benefits is an essential part of any society. A recent development in immigration policy under the Trump Administration has resulted in negative health and nutrition consequences for immigrants and their children: they fear that receiving welfare benefits will foreclose the possibility of someday legalizing their status.

Many immigrants must undergo an admissibility test before being able to gain status. The broad admissibility categories include whether the foreign national has prior immigration violations, crimes, or whether the applicant will be a public charge to the United States[1]. The bottom line is that if an immigrant is deemed a “public charge”, he or she will be denied Legal Permanent Residence.[2]

On February 24, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented regulations that interpret the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The rules are a significant departure from the policy in place since 1999, which generally allowed an applicant to meet legal requirements with the use of an affidavit of support, the physical ability to be gainfully employed and by showing a lack of a history of cash assistance or government- subsidized institutionalization.[3] While the test is still a “totality of the circumstances” test, the new policy promulgates hardline standards and confines adjudicators by decreasing discretion.

Persons who are applying for a green card are usually seeking “admission” into the United States. Those persons are directly affected by the public charge rule. However, immigrants that do not have to worry about the rule include U visa holders, T visa holders, asylees, refugees and many more categories.

The INA does not define public charge but it does specify that when determining whether an alien is likely at any time to become a public charge, immigration officers must, at a minimum, consider the alien’s age; health; family status; assets, resources and financial status; and education and skills. In analyzing the totality of the circumstances, DHS must determine whether an alien is likely to become a public charge at any time in the future. However, even though the public charge determination is a prospective determination, DHS considers any current and past receipts of public benefits.

There are three different factors that must be considered when determining whether receipt of a welfare benefit will affect the public charge determination: TYPE, AMOUNT and DURATION.

Types of benefits that are considered:

· Cash assistance

· Medicaid (exception for emergency medical condition)

· Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy

· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps)

· Any benefit for institutionalization for long-term care at government expense

· Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher

· Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance

· Public Housing

Other factors that weigh heavily in favor of a public charge finding are whether the alien is unable to demonstrate current employment, has not employment history or no reasonable prospect of future employment. Also considered: the alien is currently receiving benefits above the threshold within 36 months preceding the application for status, medical conditions, a previous public charge determination.

It is important to note that DHS will consider only the direct receipt of benefits by the individual applicant.

On the other hand, an alien can present factors that weigh in his or her favor: if the alien has financial assets, resources and support of at least 250% of the federal Poverty Guidelines, or if the alien is authorized to work and is currently employed with an annual income of at least 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

The new regulation comprises documentary requirements as well. Applicants for legal permanent residence must file the new USCIS Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.

With the new regulation, an alien whom DHS has determined to be inadmissible based on the public charge ground may, if otherwise admissible, be admitted upon giving a bond. The purpose of issuing a public charge bond is to ensure that the alien will not become a public charge in the future. The concept of a bond has always been in the INA but the DHS never had implemented a public charge bond process.

[1] Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Some immigrant and nonimmigrant categories are exempt from the public charge inadmissibility ground. Those include: asylees, VAWA, military service members or their children and U visas.

[2] The new policy also subjects applicants for admission to the U.S. and non-immigrant visa applicants (i.e. temporary, employment-based visas) to a public charge admissibility analysis. This article only discusses immigrant visas or benefits through a family petition.

[3] Another statutory requirement is for the immigrant to have an affidavit of support signed on his or her behalf. The affidavit of support provides a mechanism for public benefit granting agencies to seek reimbursement in the event a sponsored alien received means-tested public benefits.

**This is not intended as legal advice. Each person should have an individualized analysis of their circumstances**. Liliana Gallelli is an attorney with experience in immigration matters since 2007. She has represented clients before immigration agencies, immigration courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, federal district courts, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Her work involves applications for business visas (L1s, E2s, H1bs, among others), family petitions, cancellation of removal, and U visas, among others. She speaks Spanish fluently and conversational Portuguese, Italian and French. 707-433-2060.

Informados y Preparados

Liliana Gallelli, Licenciada

Si una persona indocumentada tiene encuentro con las autoridades de inmigración, deben saber sus derechos para poder defenderse y poder tener acceso a las protecciones que les ofrecen las leyes.

  1. Informase de sus Opciones de Inmigración

Consulte con un proveedor de servicios legales de confianza para entender sus opciones legales y si califica para algún beneficio de inmigración. No un notario. Opciones incluyen: visas familiares, Visa U, y para defenderse en caso de corte, cancellation of removal (cancelación de deportación) y asilo.

  1. Conozca Sus Derechos en caso de contacto con ICE

Todos, sin importar estatus legal, tenemos derechos constitucionales ante las autoridades de


  • Guarde Silencio: Permanezca callado.
  • No Abra la Puerta: Si llegan agentes de inmigración a su casa.
  • No Firme Nada.
  1. Conducta para Evitar Arrestos o Cargos Criminales

Evite contacto negativo con la policía. Una convicción por un DUI o posesión de drogas puede traer consecuencias legales serias.

  1. En caso que es Detenido por ICE o en Caso de Deportación
  • No accepte la Salida Voluntaria sin el consejo de un abogado
  • Ahorre dinero para pagar una fianza
  • Plan para sus Hijos, incluyendo añadiendo personas a la lista de emergencia que mantiene la escuela de sus hijos y haciendo un “Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit” (
  • Haga una Carta de Poder para responsabilidad de sus niños
  • Registre a sus hijos nacidos en los Estados Unidos en México
  • Memorize el teléfono de un amigo, familiar, o abogado al que pueda llamar en caso de que usted sea arrestado.
  • Guarde sus documentos (certificados de nacimientos, documentos migratorios) en un lugar

seguro, donde un amigo o familiar los pueda encontrar

  • Asegúrese de que sus seres queridos lo puedan localizar si usted es detenido:

o   Use ICE’s online localizador de detenidos (

o   Llame a la oficina local de ICE (

o   Asegúrese de tener su número de extranjero(A#) escrito en un sitio donde lo pueda localizar sus seres queridos

*Esta información fue proveeida por ILRC, Centro de Recursos de Leyes de Inmigracion

Abogada Liliana Gallelli ejerce ley de inmigración por más de diez años y actualmente es Abogada Asociada en Kerosky Purves & Bogue, enfocándose en la defensa de deportacion, el asilo, peticiones familiares, naturalización y visas de negocios. Para ponerse en contacto con la Sra. Gallelli, llamar (707) 684-4503. El contenido de este artículo no pretende ser un asesoramiento jurídico.

Green Card From Within the United States for TPS Holders


By Liliana Gallelli, Esq.

The 9th Circuit, which governs California, has recently made a decision that hugely impacts the immigration benefits for persons with TPS status in its Ramirez v. Brown, decision.  Ramirez v. Brown __F. 3d ___ (9th Cir. 2017).[1]

TPS, “Temporary Protected Status”, is a result of the Secretary of Homeland Security’s designation of a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries: (1) are not removable from the United States, (2) can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), (3) may be granted travel authorization.

The Ramirez v. Brown decision allows persons in TPS status to adjust status within the United States.   Adjustment of status is the process that a foreign national can use to apply for lawful permanent resident status (also known as applying for a Green Card) when present in the United States.[2] This means that the intending immigrant may get a Green Card without having to return to his or her home country to complete visa processing.  To qualify for adjustment of status, among other things, the foreign national must have been “admitted” into the United States.  The Ninth Circuit’s decision largely rests on its conclusion that the section of the INA governing TPS itself “unambiguously treats aliens with TPS as being ‘admitted’ for purposes of adjusting status.”

Prior to the Ramirez v. Brown decision, persons in TPS status faced the same bar as all other persons who entered without documentation.  Generally, if a person enters the United States illegally, the foreign national is considered “inadmissible” and as such, is barred from adjusting status within the United States. Persons who are inadmissible must obtain a waiver for the illegal entry based on extreme hardship to a qualifying relative and then consular process in their home country for an immigrant visa.

Because of similar case law litigation throughout the country on this same issue, USCIS had been placing adjustment of status cases on hold.  This month, USCIS updated its official position confirming that TPS is considered an admission or purposes of adjustment of status under the jurisdiction of the 6th and 9th circuits only.  The government has directed its field offices to proceed with adjudication of filings previously placed on hold in accordance with USCIS’s updated position.


[1] The Ninth Circuit covers California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii, as well as the Northern Marianas Islands and Guam

[2] Eligibility for lawful permanent resident status is outside the scope of this article.  The most common forms of obtaining a green card are through a family petition, employment, or after having been granted asylum or cancellation of removal.




By Liliana Gallelli, Esq.

The US government may designate a foreign country for Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely for reasons such as ongoing armed conflict or an environmental disaster.    Persons who are TPS beneficiaries are not removable from the US, can get a work permit and may be able to travel abroad. Those persons also cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States. Currently more than 435,000 people from 10 countries hold TPS status including approximately 2,550 Nicaraguans, 57,000 Hondurans,  195,000 Salvadoreans and 46,000 Haitians.

On November 6, 2017 the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced the termination of TPS for Nicaraguan nationals.  To allow for transition, the effective date of the termination of TPS for Nicaragua is January 5, 2019.  In the meantime, individuals with TPS must seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible, or, if necessary, arrange for their departure.

TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent resident status but it does not prevent the immigrant from seeking any relief he or she may be eligible for such as applying for legal permanent residence through a family member.

With regard to Honduras, the DHS has not made a determination at this time, thereby automatically extending the current TPS designation for Honduras for six months – through July 5, 2018. However, given the information currently available to the DHS Secretary, it is possible that the TPS designation for Honduras will be terminated at the end of the six-month automatic extension with an appropriate delay.

All persons with temporary status should seek counsel to explore possibilities for permanent status in the United States.



This article is not intended as legal advice and is for general information only.  Author of this article: Liliana Gallelli, Esq.  Ms. Gallelli has been practicing law over 13 years.