Deportation may result if you become a ‘public charge’

by Kumar Balani

(First of two parts)

Kumar Balani

NEW YORK  – Tough new rules issued on 22 September by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prevent any temporary US visa holder or even applicant for a ‘green card’ (signifying permanent residence) from attempting to illegally collect any monetary benefits from US Federal, state, or local (city and town) governments, and become what is termed a ‘public charge‘. By all means, do not even try to do this, for your own good!

Unlike in the past, you may in recent years have come across in news media the mention of many different US immigration-related agencies, such as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the US Citizenship Services (USCIS). Today, the DHS is the parent and coordinating organization of not only these two agencies, but also a dozen others, including the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and a total of 14 government entities are under its umbrella.

On the matter of becomes a ‘public charge’ most of you are probably aware that there are already long-standing US laws mandating that those seeking to enter and remain in the United States on a temporary or permanent basis must be able to support themselves financially, either with their own funds and /or with the help of relatives, without availing of public benefits.

The first such law was the Immigration Act of 1882 enacted by the forty-seventh US Congress.

In that 1882 law, the Secretary of the Treasury was charged with designating a person or persons who “shall be authorized to go on board of and through any ship or vessel, and if on such examination shall be found among such passengers any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge, they shall report the same in writing to the collector of such port, and such persons shall not be permitted to land.”

DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen has stated officially: “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.” She is referring to the aforementioned 1882 law that is mentioned in one of its informational websites.

Other immigration laws passed in later years also contain provisions barring anyone from becoming a public charge. To put it bluntly, a public charge is anyone who milks the US government or mooches on it illegally for his or her own personal benefit.

We looked at official DHS news media resources, and it is not just a single proposed rule but a number of them. Relevant details on these rules will be posted in the coming weeks and it is “welcoming public comment” for a period of 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. We shall keep you informed of the developments.

When applying for an extension of a temporary visa, a signed letter called an ‘affidavit of support’ is generally required by the relevant immigration agency as one of the requirements in the application process. Before drafting and submitting this letter, ask what amount is required to be shown, so you don’t indicate an amount that is either too low or too high and is denied a visa.

There are various public benefits available to US residents and citizens who qualify based not only on income, but also based on a combination of factors such as age, assets, education, family status, financial condition, health, resources, and skills.

Some of the better-known public benefits available are: Medicaid; Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy; Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program; Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance or Public Housing; Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, known popularly as food stamps; Supplementary Security Income (SSI); and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF.

Surprisingly, among the available public benefits, there is also a form of healthcare, which is not only quite expensive here in the US but can also cost the government a lot of money for a potentially long period of time. That costly benefit is described as “institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”

The bottom line is this: avoid any and all types of public assistance if you do not want to jeopardize your immigration status. In the Second Part of our article on the new set of rules pertaining to avoiding being designated a ‘public charge,’ we will discuss how they relate to specific types of intending immigrants such as applicants for various types of temporary visas and those seeking green cards through a variety of ways.

Kumar (Kem) Balani joins the Philippine Daily Mirror as a columnist. He also writes for the Daily Tribune in the Philippines. He is the founder and current publisher of BIZ INDIA Online News ( that followed the print publication BIZ INDIA Magazine begun in 2002.

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