OK, I admit it. I picked up Monica Lewinsky's first-person piece, "Shame and Survival", in the June issue of Vanity Fair because I was curious to know what became of her and her infamous stained blue dress. But aside from her disingenuous claim that she's breaking her long silence because she feels like she might become some sort of role model or mentor for youths who have been humiliated, the most interesting thing about the piece, for me, wasn't anything about her relationship with Bill Clinton, but rather a little anecdote about green card marriage fraud that I'm sure most readers might have breezed past.
In a section on how hard it is for her to date, there was this fascinating little nugget:
In the early years of post-impeachment, I once left a front row seat along the third base line at a Yankees game when I learned that my date – a guy whose company I thoroughly enjoyed – was actually in another relationship. It was only a green-card marriage, but I freaked that we could be photographed together and someone might call the gossip rags. I've become adept at figuring out when men are interested in me for the wrong reasons.
Let's put aside the obvious question here of why she would "freak" out in this scenario and look at the green-card marriage bit. First, let's talk about the guy on the date. This may be the most creative excuse for adultery I have ever heard: Sure, I'm married, but it's not a real marriage. I married her for the green card! A few points here.
- This charming man must have assumed that Ms. Lewinsky wouldn't view green-card marriage fraud as a serious crime and based on the fact that she wrote "It was only a green-card marriage" maybe he was right.
- Would anyone want to date someone duplicitous enough to con someone into a bogus marriage?
- Am I the only one who can't help but wonder how someone desperate enough to engage in a green-card marriage fraud scores front row tickets and a date with Ms. Lewinsky back when she was even more famous than she is now?
- Perpetrators of green-card marriage fraud know that there is very little chance of being caught. Seriously, how brazen is this guy, as a supposedly married man he takes Monica Lewinsky, of all people, to a Yankees game and sits in the front row? Talk about keeping a low profile!
Ms. Lewinsky's breezy mention of dating a perpetrator of a green-card wedding scam underscores for me how people still underestimate the seriousness of this offense. Nearly six years ago, I wrote a backgrounder for CIS on green-card marriage fraud called, "Hello, I Love You Won't You Tell Me Your Name". At the time, I knew marriage fraud was a serious problem, because I'd seen it with my own eyes as a State Department consular officer. But even I have been shocked by all of the stories that have been pouring into my inbox from marriage fraud victims since I report that report. Not a single week has passed in which I don't get at least one, but more commonly several messages from people who have been conned or know someone who was conned.
As I wrote back in 2008, most international marriages are legitimate, but that doesn't mean that there aren't thousands of bogus cases each year. It's a huge problem that has barely been explored in the mainstream media, so all kinds of desperate people turn to me for answers because trying to contact DHS is a nightmare and they don't know where else to go for help. I've heard from American-born children of immigrants whose parents have pushed them into arranged marriages set up solely for facilitating someone's entry into the U.S. Americans who have been subjected to physical and psychological abuse have sent me their heartbreaking stories. And hundreds of Americans have written to me with tales of woe about how they were duped into marriage by a scammer who then cleaned them out in divorce proceedings.
Oddly enough, I also get a lot of mail from foreign nationals who ask me for advice on how to commit visa fraud or complain that they are honest people who are being unfairly accused of fraud. Others write to me simply to vent their frustration. For example, last week I got an e-mail from a woman in the Philippines who is annoyed that her fiance, an American truck driver whom she met on a dating site called OK Cupid, cannot file a fiance petition for her because he is a convicted, registered sex offender, who is also, by the way, barred from entering the Philippines.
Why is marriage fraud so prevalent? When you have people who are so desperate that they are writing letters to journalists to complain that they can't get here to marry a convicted sex offender they met online, that gives you some idea of how determined many people are to get to the U.S., one way or the other. (And of course, many perpetrators of green-card marriage fraud are already on U.S. soil, looking for "lovers" who can help them stay legally or legalize.) When determined foreigners can't qualify for a tourist visa, and have no hope of getting some type of work visa, meeting an American to marry is often their only hope for scoring a green card.
The problem is that that single-minded quest to get a green card can ruin the life of an American who is often oblivious to how desperate some people are to live in the U.S. Ms. Lewinsky was right to get up and leave her front row seat at Yankee Stadium. But she should have bolted because she found her con-artist date revolting, not because she was afraid of paparazzi.