Immigration Officials Let 8,000 Child Brides into the US
(From The Washington Examiner)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which considers these types of requests for admission prior to the State Department’s final approval of them, granted exactly 5,556 approvals to adults over a 10-year period, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wrote in a report issued Friday.
Another 2,926 applications in which the minor asked to be admitted with his or her adult spouse were also approved.
USCIS said in an email to the Washington Examiner Friday evening that it followed the Immigration and Nationality Act in making recommendations on each case. The immigration law does not set a minimum age for the spouse or fiancee of a person seeking admission to the U.S.
“As we have explained to lawmakers, while there are no statutory age requirements or legal provisions for petitioning for a spouse, USCIS does not approve fiance visa petitions where either the beneficiary or petitioner’s age at marriage violates the laws of the U.S. state in which the couple plans to reside, nor does the agency approve spousal petitions where either the beneficiary or petitioner’s age at marriage violates the laws of the country in which they were married,” said USCIS spokesman Michael Bars.
Bars said the agency requires birth date verification of the couple when an application is filed and implemented a system that automatically flags petitions of those involving a minor. The application is then forwarded to a special office within USCIS for consideration.
However, they said any changes to the standard by which they and the State Department consider applicants lies with Congress.
“Ultimately, it is up to Congress to bring more certainty and legal clarity to this process for both petitioners and USCIS officers,” Bars said.
CIS officials considered these types of requests by looking at whether the marriage would be legal in the state the couple planned to live in.
States have varying marriage ages. Some, including Maryland, New York, and Virginia, allow children under the age of 16 years old to wed with court permission.
The approximately 8,000 approved requests were among 3.5 million that were received in that decade span. Only 2.6 percent of requests are rejected by the State Department.
Still, the committee chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told the Associated Press it “indicated a problem … a loophole that we need to close.”
The challenge will be how to create a federal law or policy that does not stomp out state laws.
Mexican nationals were granted the most approvals of “child bride” visas or green cards, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic, and Yemen.