Revisiting One-Sided Marriage Fraud

By Dan Cadman on November 7, 2016

Since my last blog posting about the disastrous consequences of one-sided marriage frauds, I have received a considerable amount of correspondence from citizen victims of such frauds. I suspect this may also be true for my colleague, David North, who also has written about the evils of marriage fraud.

The range of victims has been notable, spanning a variety of races and ethnicities, and has included at least one naturalized citizen, showing that even those who have been through the legal immigration system can be blind to the possibility of fraud when the heart overrules the head.

Several who communicated with me have been women; two have been men, one in a traditional marriage, and the other in a same-sex marriage with an alien. The latter case seems to me in some ways poignant, because no sooner have gay individuals gained the right to marry than they also discover the pain of divorce. This is something I am sure they understood intellectually — but abstract concepts differ considerably from the wrenching emotional reality, especially when one adds to it the recognition that you've been duped and that it was a loveless match conceived solely to obtain a green card. All of the situations described to me, though, are immeasurably sad; in another case, I heard from a mother whose emotionally challenged daughter was taken advantage of.

It's probably not a surprise that many of those who have written carry a hope that, because I know something about these matters, I can somehow help them straighten out the shocking and emotionally devastating circumstances they find themselves in, which all to frequently include financial ruin (or something not far from it), mounting legal or private investigator bills, alimony, you name it. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet.

Speaking directly to such victims: I am ill-positioned to aid in any individual case. I write for a research organization whose mission is to study and report on the effects of immigration, and to raise public awareness of some of its ills and collateral damage such as one-sided marriage frauds. I can, and do, sympathize. To the extent I have time and ability, I can point toward organizations that may be able to assist. In my publications I can, and have, offered generic advice such as ensuring you make contact with the relevant government authorities, protecting yourself and your assets to the extent you can, and reaching out to your congressional representatives and senators. I can't and don't offer legal advice; and I can't and won't act as a forum to publicize any individual case except to the extent that it proves a larger point that needs making.

Having said the necessary, let me move on and say that I see a developing trend, one where citizens become aware of the trap that they have gotten into before the alien's green card process is complete. What happens next almost inevitably is that the alien whenever possible claims mental or physical abuse. (My colleague David North recently wrote about this.) Certainly this sometimes happens, just as surely as sometimes citizens are the victims of the mental or physical abuse. But because the law permits abused aliens to self-petition, it becomes a ready (in fact the only) avenue to finish a process once the citizen puts on the brakes, refuses to finish the immigration process, and begins the heart-breaking process of separating from the person they loved and by whom they thought they were loved.

I am beginning to believe that the law governing the process, however well intended, follows what I have often previously referred to as "the rule of unintended consequences."

This is because I doubt that immigration examiners often think much about what happens after they grant a self-petition based on assertions of abuse — it isn't their job. Having lived professionally in and around the system for many years, I also know that sometimes examiners will make their judgment based not completely on evidence, but on what they consider the "benefit of the doubt" factor — better to approve the petition than risk denial for someone who may have faced abuse.

If an immigration examiner accepts the alien's representations based simply on the petition and the alien's own statements, with little or no corroborating evidence, there can be unintended and potentially disastrous consequences to the citizen. He or she has suddenly been marked by the giant hand of the federal government as a spousal abuser, even though the examiner was only focused on the alien's petition, and never thought about or intended that result.

This can have significant adverse impacts on the citizen's reputation, employment opportunities, liability for alimony, right to see offspring (if any have been born during the tumultuous relationship), etc.

I am at the tipping point where, while I have no desire whatever to myself unintentionally endorse abuse by any party toward the other, I also think there is a built-in bias in favor of the alien petitioner, to the citizen's disadvantage. This strikes me as hugely unfair. I find myself wondering if Congress should not amend the law to provide some form of meaningful ability for the citizen to contest the allegation of spousal abuse. This could be done with some form of adversarial proceeding before an immigration or administrative law judge in which each side has the opportunity to make a case, at the end of which the judge would rule to grant or deny the petition. Just something to think about.