The NY Times/George Santos/Immigration/Marriage Maze

Many unanswered questions

By David North on January 17, 2023

Don’t get me wrong, I think newly elected Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), a multiple fabulist about many parts of his life, should be bounced from the House and perhaps jailed.

As a lifelong Democrat (and, incidentally, once my party’s candidate for the House of Representatives), I have only admiration for the leaders of the Republican Party in New York State who have called for his resignation. Both parties are at fault for not vetting his resume before the elections of 2020 and 2022; he lost the first time, and won the second time.

But I think it is only fair to examine and amplify an immigration-related implication that has been laid on him, more or less in passing, by the New York Times in its lead story in the Sunday paper on January 15:

Mr. Santos, who is openly gay, had been married to a woman. The report did not offer conclusive details, but some people briefed on the findings wondered whether the marriage was done for immigration purposes.

Although that article ran on for 91 column-inches in the print edition, there was no follow-up text on “the immigration purposes” charge. The suggestion was just left hanging there.

Was that for her immigration purposes, or for his?

The marriage, according to the records, was between George Anthony Devolder Santos and Uadla Santos-Viera. She could have been an alien and he a citizen, and for reasons perhaps known only to them, he had done her a favor and entered into a marriage of convenience for her so that she could become a citizen. They divorced in 2019. Under these circumstances the alien often pays the citizen in the case. If this were true, it would just be another blemish on his messy record.

The Times did not explore either that possibility or the next one.

The other, more serious implication, is that Santos, once an alien, married the lady, presumably a U.S. citizen, so that he could become a citizen, and that only because of this marriage was he able to run for the House. Their marriage took place on August 2, 2012, in Manhattan and can be verified in the city’s files.

Such speculation was fueled by Santos’ multiple lies and by reports that sometimes he said that he had been born in Brazil, where his parents had lived. He says that he was born in Queens on July 22, 1988; if that is true, then he is a native-born citizen, and did not need to marry for naturalization purposes.

But had he been born in Brazil, would such a marriage make him eligible for the House in 2020, when he first ran (and lost), or two years later when he ran and won? This is where the Times reporting really collapses.

An alien marrying a citizen can qualify for naturalization after the marriage is three years old; naturalization requests are not handled swiftly by USCIS, so the likelihood that he became a citizen exactly three years after the marriage is slim. That date would have been August 2, 2015.

The Constitution’s Article 1, Section 2, says:

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Note the capitalizations and the “he”.

Now, if USCIS had moved with remarkable swiftness, Santos, an alien who had married on August 2, 2012, the earliest he could become naturalized was August 2, 2015. Seven years after that would be August 2, 2022, at the very earliest. This would have been 22 months after the 2020 election, meaning that if he used the marriage as a road to citizenship he ran for the 2020 election illegally. Had USCIS approved his petition four months or more after filing it, back in 2015, which would have been highly likely, he would not have been constitutionally eligible for the House in 2022.

So there are multiple possibilities in this case:

  1. Santos was born in Brazil, became naturalized sometime after August 2, 2015, and is a citizen but not long enough to meet the seven-year rule.
  2. Santos became naturalized quickly after the marriage and was eligible for the House in 2022, but not in 2020.
  3. Santos was born in Brazil, naturalized earlier than November 2013 without regard to a marriage, and was eligible in both elections, but he has been lying about a birth in Queens.
  4. Santos is a green card holder.
  5. Santos was born in Brazil and has no legal status in the U.S.
  6. Santos was born in Queens on July 22, 1988, as he claims.
  7. Santos was born in the U.S. and married Uadla so that she could become a citizen.
  8. Santos married her for legit reasons.

All of which the Times ought to explore.

Research Needed. It would help a lot if there were an open-records arrangement in New York City on births; that does not seem to exist. One can get information on a birth certificate only if it is for oneself or a family member. On the other hand, the city regards marriage certificates as partially open records, so we found the date of the marriage.

As to information about naturalizations, one must go through the clumsy Freedom of Information Act process with USCIS, which the Center is doing for both Mr. and the former Mrs. Santos.