There's an Odd Balance-of-Payments Situation that Benefits U.S. Citizens

By David North on October 18, 2011

We at CIS often write about immigration-related situations in which aliens benefit and citizens lose, such as in the nonimmigrant worker programs (H, J, L, etc.), where foreign workers often shoulder aside American ones.

Here's a switch, though a not very attractive one.

There's a fringe activity in the immigration world in which aliens make steady payments to citizens for doing nothing, except keeping silent. The balance of payments is always in favor of the citizens, and they can go on for years.

It's called immigration marriage fraud, and the folks getting at least some of the money are, by definition, American citizens. Doing the paying are aliens of the other sex who want to use their "marriages" to the citizens to obtain green cards.

Marriage fraud can be a substantial business, as I learned indirectly from a not-very-exciting press release from a subdued government agency, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a part of the Justice Department and manager of the immigration judges. EOIR routinely announces that it has bounced some lawyers from practicing before the immigration judges, and the most recent announcement mentions a lawyer named Manny Aguja of Chicago.

Mr. Aguja was, understandably, taken off the list of lawyers allowed to practice immigration law because he had been convicted in the federal court on September 15 of participating in a marriage fraud ring. A look at his indictment by a federal grand jury was rather more detailed, and more enlightening, than the routine EOIR announcement.

The indictment cast light on both the economics of marriage fraud, and the scale of this particular ring in Chicago.

The indictment, (which can be seen by users of PACER, the federal courts' electronic data system, at 1:09-cr-00619 doc. #24) says that Aguja's main co-conspirator, Maria F. Cruz, charged the aliens a sum of $3,000 for the arrangements; in addition, each alien paid each citizen about "$3,000 after the marriage; and (b) approximately $300 to $350 every month until the foreign-born national obtained United States citizenship." (I assume that the jury meant green card status rather than citizenship.)

The amounts paid to Ajuga, the one lawyer in the case, were not mentioned.

Usually one hears about a single payment to the citizen in these cases, but the down payment plus a regular fee was also the pattern in a Washington, D.C., case recently in which the citizen murdered the brother of her alien "spouse" when the brother ceased his payments of $500 a week for the fraudulent marriage, as noted in an earlier blog.

The Chicago operation was a massive one. In addition to Cruz and Ajuga there were eight other indicted co-conspirators, 15 unindicted ones, 16 marriages cited in the document, and 14 counts in the indictment, which ran, in turn, to 34 pages. Also partially identified were Undercover Agents A, B, C, D, and E. How many other agents, investigators, and lawyers were involved is not noted. Presumably this was an ICE investigation.

While the indictment is silent on the ethnic identifies involved, the names listed suggested a melting pot of conspirators; there were five Latino names, one from Eastern Europe, an Anglo or perhaps African American name, and three other names that sounded like those of African Americans. Seven were noted as U.S. citizens, one of the Latinos as a foreign national, and in two cases, there was no such identification. Several of the conspirators were marriage partners; Ajuga was indicted for knowingly filing green card petitions that were fraudulent.

The unindicted co-conspirators, mostly if not all marriage partners, were only identified by initials. Why they, too, were not charged is not known.