Nations Supplying Disproportionate Numbers of Self-Petitioning Spouses

By David North on January 23, 2019

One of the most troublesome — but small-scale — portions of the annual inflows of legal immigrants consists of 3,000 to 4,000 self-petitioning spouses of citizens.

It is worrisome because every one of these entrants is granted a green card because of an odd reason: a failed marriage between a citizen and an alien. Either the alien spouse was abused by the citizen in the marriage or the citizen was falsely accused. There are no other reasons for these grants of status. They petition for themselves as no one will petition for them.

Many of these marriages are more-or-less blessed in advance by our government; this happens with the issuance of a K-1 fiance visa to the alien at the request of the citizen.

In many cases a conniving alien, usually younger, more attractive, and more assertive than the citizen marriage partner, falsely claims abuse and brings misery to the citizen. To make matters worse, the Department of Homeland Security refuses to listen to the protests of the citizen involved, as it gives the green card to the alien without anything approaching a hearing.

Today's question is: What nations provide us with a disproportionate number of such marriages when compared to the much larger flow of family-chain migrants generally?

It should be noted immediately that the adjusting, self-petitioning spouses of citizens, numbering 3,247 in 2107, constituted less than 1 percent of chain migration involving relatives of U.S. citizens, which totaled 516,508 that year.

Nevertheless, where did these aliens come from? DHS gathers, but does not publish, data on this subject; we obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Only three nations supplied more than 100 of this kind of green card in FY 2017: Mexico (1,053), Jamaica (198), and the Dominican Republic (135), as can be seen in the following table.

Nations with the Largest Number of Adjusting, Self-petitioning Spouses, 2017

(Ranked by number of adjustments for nations of origin)
Nation Number of Self-Petitioning Spouses (IB6) Self-Petitioning Spouses as a Pct. of Global Total Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens, Both Admissions and Adjustments Immediate Relatives, Pct. of Global Total
Mexico 1,053 32.40% 114,431 22.20%
Jamaica 198 6.10% 14,694 2.80%
Dominican Republic 135 4.20% 27,844 5.20%
Brazil 86 2.60% 10,102 2.00%
Honduras 82 2.50% 6,636 1.30%
Nigeria 82 2.50% 9,741 1.80%
Peru 82 2.50% 6,445 1.20%
Philippines 75 2.30% 25,684 5.00%
Columbia 71 2.20% 12,324 2.40%
Ghana 69 2.10% 5,782 1.10%
Subtotal 1,933 59.40% 233,683 45.10%
Rest of World 1,314 40.50% 282,825 54.80%
Totals 3,247 99.90% 516,508 99.90%

Sources: Calculations by the Center for Immigration Studies; Column 2 from USCIS data obtained by the Center through a FOIA request; Column 3 calculated from Column 2; Column 4 from Table 10, in 2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Column 5 calculated from Column 4.
Note: IB6 self-petitioning spouses constituted about 83 percent of all self-petitioning spouses in 2017; these spouses routinely secure green cards by charging that their U.S.-citizen spouses had abused them. Nations with larger percentages in Column 3 than in Column 5 have more of these cases than the average.

Seven nations among the top-10 in terms of raw numbers gave us disproportionately larger numbers of these claimants when compared to the overall flow of citizen-related family migration. These were Jamaica, where the proportion was 218 percent; Peru, 208 percent; Honduras, 193 percent; Ghana, 191 percent; Mexico, 146 percent; Nigeria, 139 percent; and Brazil, 130 percent. In these calculations if a nation had the same proportion of self-petitioners as citizen-related family migrants, the proportion would be 100 percent.

Those of us who watch this particular flow of unhappy green cards had thought (from much anecdotal evidence) that the Philippines and places in Eastern Europe (such as Ukraine) would play a larger role in such calculations than they did.

The listing of more-likely-than-average sources of these troubling marriages would be useful to the government if it were — like the one in Canada — to attempt to head off such marriages, but so far it has shown no interest in doing so.

Statistical Note. There are six subclasses of aliens getting self-petitioning green cards because of marriages to citizen or green card residents of the United States. About five-sixths of the total fall into the one specific subcategory of aliens marrying citizens and then filing (inside the States) for adjustment to green card status; this is DHS category IB6. The numbers of aliens arriving in these categories as immigrants is small compared to those adjusting from nonimmigrant to immigrant status.

When all six sub-classes are examined, many of the smaller flows disappear statistically, because DHS refuses (for misguided privacy reasons) to provide data when 10 or fewer aliens are involved; for that reason, and for the sake of simplicity and clarity, we dealt only with the IB6 sub-grouping.