The worst kind of immigration-related marriage fraud is that involving forced marriages.
Routinely, the unwilling member of the wedding is a young U.S. citizen woman who belongs to a deeply conservative immigrant family; the usual groom is an alien of similar ethnic background, but he is older and at least a bit richer than his spouse and, though it is probably politically incorrect to say so, usually everyone involved is a Muslim.
And the U.S. government — unlike those in the U.K. and Australia — is usually doing nothing about it although the young woman's rights are trampled upon, as is the immigration law.
I was reminded of all this recently by a press release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement when the agency announced "HSI, Diplomatic Security Service arrest honor killing suspect in Brooklyn", with HSI standing for Homeland Security Investigations.
Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry, 60, was the villain. He had arranged for his young daughter, Amina Ajmal, to be held captive in Pakistan for three years, and during that time he also forced the marriage of Amina to an older Pakistani alien male (who, of course, got a green card out of it). Amina escaped from the marriage with the help of Pakistani relatives and refused to return to the family home in Brooklyn. As a result, Choudhry, according to the indictment, had a member of his family in Pakistan kill two relatives who had helped his daughter.
Incidentally, I find the use of the term "honor killing" to be both misleading and inappropriate.
There is nothing honorable about murdering your relatives, particularly when they are simply standing up for human rights — like not being forced to marry someone you do not want to marry.
The ICE press release about the arrest fits into another broader scheme as well; the agency spends much time on matters other than immigration law enforcement — such as child pornography and the return of filched antiques to Third World countries — and devotes much ink to stressing these peripheral issues, as I reported in an earlier blog, so this latest ICE report was more on murder than on immigration law enforcement.
Choudry's arrest, incidentally, is one of a number of instances in recent years in which an immigration/marriage fraud case also involved murder; this is something we at CIS have reported in the past as an ominous linkage, but which has escaped the notice of the ICE pressies.
Forced marriages, with or without murder, is an issue our government stumbles on to from time to time, as in the Brooklyn-Pakistan case, but which is of much greater continuing interest to other immigration systems, such as those of Australia and the U.K. In both countries legislation has been introduced that would criminalize forced marriages. For more on this in Australia, see here.
In the U.K., the Cameron government has created a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) that is part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It offers a wide variety of services to those within Britain who are threatened with forced marriages, and its services even extend beyond the nation's borders to include interventions managed through the nation's diplomatic posts overseas. This is particularly useful in the many countries that used to be part of the British Empire.
This is, apparently, a very assertive agency, as the following "best practices" example from the FMU's website indicates:
Sebiya came to the UK from Sudan following a forced marriage. When she arrived, she was prevented from leaving the house, she was discouraged from learning English, and she was subjected to appalling abuse from her husband and his extended family.
On one occasion after her husband had beaten her, she attended the local hospital — as usual her husband went with her. Fortunately, the consultant she saw spoke the same language as Sebiya. He asked the husband to leave but as usual he refused. The consultant then managed to get Sebiya to follow him into another room, whereupon he closed the door leaving her husband outside. He asked Sebiya if she was OK and Sebiya told him everything.
In the middle of a busy morning clinic, he dropped everything, phoned the police and social care services. They collected her from the hospital and found her a place in a refuge. To this day, Sebiya genuinely believes the consultant saved her life.
The "consultant" presumably is the physician in this case. Sebiya is an Arabic name. My assumption is that the abusing husband was an alien, and only secured legal status in the U.K. through his marriage to Sebiya. Whether he kept that status after this incident is not mentioned.
One of the services offered by the FMU, by the way, is to provide assistance to "stop a UK visa if you've been forced to sponsor someone", so maybe that was part of this story.
I mentioned earlier that forced marriages to create immigrant visas are most common in immigrant communities coming from Muslim countries. Supporting that statement is an analysis by the U.K.'s FMU of the 1,485 individual complaints it received in 2012. The distribution of them among immigrants from various nations, Muslim and non-Muslim, is shown in the table that follows.
|Muslim Nations|| Nations with Large
|India: 8.0%|| India has the world’s
176 million, or
about 14% of its
|Nigeria: 0.9%|| About half of the
population is Muslim.
|Sri Lanka: 0.9%|| Muslims make up
about 10% of the population.
|Saudi Arabia: 0.6%|
|Totals: 67.2%||9.8%||0.5%|| Unlisted Nations:14.8%
Sources: Percentages of complaints by nation from the Forced Marriage Unit; Muslim/non-Muslim population characterizations by the author.
Obviously the United States should pay much more attention to marriage/immigration fraud than it does now, including the forced marriage version. Our government should have a unit like the British one to help prevent forced marriages, but it does not.
In addition to visa fraud caused by forced weddings, there are two presumably more numerous kinds of immigration-related married fraud: these involve a cash payment by the alien to the citizen involved in the phony marriage, or the deception of the citizen (or the green card) spouse by the alien partner, a deception that usually continues until the green card is actually awarded to the alien two years after the marriage.
For more on these more frequently used approaches, see this CIS blog.