Government data analyzed by the Associated Press shows that thousands of visa requests for child brides and fiancees were approved by U.S. immigration services between 2007 and 2017.
Stunningly, the requests are legal as applicants are well aware that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not include an age limit for spouses. Most states in the U.S. allow marriage to minors with some restrictions.
Well over 5,000 such requests were approved over the aforementioned timeframe, demonstrating that the immigration system is – and has been for some time – complicit in enabling forced child marriages.
The State Department approves or denies requests based on whether the child marriage is legal in the applicant’s home country and in the applied state of residence.
According to the Daily Caller, the highest percentage of child bride visa requests came from Middle Eastern nationals, while the highest number was from Mexico.
Some of the child bride applications were of the extreme variety.
A report from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs notes the following examples:
The Committee found that USCIS awarded some petitions to people with significant age differences. For example, in 2013, USCIS approved a 71-year-old U.S. citizen’s petition for a 17-year-old spouse in Guatemala; in 2011, USCIS approved a 14-year-old U.S. citizen’s petition for a 48-year-old spouse in Jamaica; and USCIS approved 149 petitions involving a minor with an adult spouse or fiancé who was more than 40 years old.
Members of the committee wrote in a letter that “our immigration system may unintentionally shield the abuse of women and children.”
Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson indicated these approvals are a sign that immigration services enable the forced marriage of young girls in opposition to federal policy.
“It indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close,” Johnson told the AP.
Obama Touted His Administration’s Work On Child Marriage
Barack Obama frequently touted his administration’s work in battling against child marriage, calling it “a threat to fundamental human rights.”
In 2015, he and former First Lady Michelle Obama announced an expansion of the Let Girls Learn initiative, which was designed to “improve access to quality education and target the barriers that can keep adolescent girls out of school, including gender-based violence and child marriage.”
Instead, during a decade long stretch which includes all eight years of Obama’s two terms as president, immigration turned a blind eye to the nature of these requests.
“(The girls) are subjected to a lifetime of domestic servitude and rape,” Fraidy Reiss, an advocate against coerced marriage said. “And the government is not only complicit; they’re stamping this and saying: Go ahead.”