A new report released by a U.S. Senate committee reveals that the United States government has approved thousands of applications to bring child brides into the U.S. over the past decade.
One of the cases, brought up in the document involved a 71 year-old-man applying for admission for a 17 year-old-girl from Guatemala.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) doesn't abide by any age requirement and instead adjudicates petitions based on whether the marriage is legal in the spouse's home country as well as the petitioner's state of residence.
The approvals were legal, as applicants take advantage of the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not limit the age of spouses and the fact that many states allow for minors to be married under certain circumstances.
Of the 3.5 million petitions, the State Department gave their seal of approval to 5,556 cases that detailed applicants, 149 of whom were aged 40 and older, wanting to bring their minor spouses or fiancées stateside.
In nearly all of these cases, the female was the younger person in the relationship.
In the cases where adolescent girls applied for their older husbands to come over, immigration officials fear they are being forced to do so and used to gain citizenship for the men who married them.
In a statement, officials with the USCIS did not expand on the State Department's process; however, they did indicate that roughly 2.6 percent of claims are rejected. "They all wanted him here, and that was the way to do it".
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Separately, the data show some 4,749 minor spouses or fiancees received green cards to live in the USA over that 10-year period. She said she was betrothed to her first cousin when she was 8 and he was 21, and forced into a marriage with him five years later. "They don't think?" Amin asked. It leaves "the most vulnerable children, often girls promised to adult men, defenseless to families who hope to offer USA citizenship in exchange for a marital agreement". She ended up running away and spending time in foster care.
Fraidy Reiss, the head of a group called Unchained at Last, campaigns against coerced marriage. Some states allow individuals as young as 16 to marry, with some requiring a parental consent.
"[These minors] are subjected to a lifetime of domestic servitude and rape", she told the AP. And the government is not only complicit; they're stamping this and saying: "Go ahead", Reiss added.
Johnson and then-Democratic Missouri Sen. A U.S. child also has a right to petition for a spouse or fiancé living in a foreign state.
The head of USCIS said in a letter to the committee that its request had raised questions and discussion within the agency on what it can do to prevent forced minor marriages.
USCIS created a flagging system when a minor spouse or fiance is detected.
The country where most requests came from was Mexico, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and Yemen.
US immigration authorities approved 5,556 requests from older men to bring child or adolescent wives to the USA, and approved 2,926 requests from young girls to bring their older husbands to the USA between the budget years of 2007 and 2017.
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