Two Small Bits of Good News on the Marriage Fraud Front

By David North on September 2, 2014

Two bits of good news — if you look hard enough — have emerged recently regarding marriage-based immigration fraud.

As we noted a year ago, there are fundamentally two kinds of marriage-related immigration fraud. There are what might be called the Class C (for Cash) cases, in which an alien and a citizen conspire for payment to enter a sham marriage so that the alien can become a legal resident of the United States. This is the most common form.

Then there are what I call the Class D-1 (for Deception) cases, in which a citizen unwittingly enters into a marriage with an alien that the latter does not intend to honor once the green card is in place. A particularly unpleasant form (D-2) of this fraud takes place when the alien (usually, but not always, a woman) marries a citizen and then falsely accuses him of physical or emotional abuse and, if she succeeds in her claim, gets an instant green card in a rigged decision-making environment we will describe subsequently. This is done under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is part of the immigration code.

In D-1 cases, the alien strings along the citizen spouse until two years have passed, and the spouse has filed papers for a green card. After the USCIS decision is in place, the alien dumps the citizen. It takes longer than the D-2 scenario described above and requires the alien and citizen to live together throughout the period.

The good news comes in three, unrelated parts: statistical, personal (as it relates to one of my readers), and procedural.

Statistical. While the D-1 route to marriage fraud is about as old as immigration law itself, the D-2 route is relatively new. The first possible incidence came in 1998, shortly after VAWA became law. Relatively new provisions in the immigration law that create new ways to enter the country, legally or illegally, usually take years to be widely understood and used, so the number of beneficiaries rises year after year.

What is unusual in this case is that the total number of abused spouses (of citizens) securing green card status, both the legitimate ones and the undetected phony ones combined, has dropped every year for the past four years. Most of these cases involve residents (often illegal ones) of the United States who adjust status when they win their cases with USCIS; a much smaller number are admitted from overseas after they convince the government that the U.S. citizen spouse abused them outside the country.

Here, then, are the adjustments and admissions numbers for the last four fiscal years:

Green Card Decisions on Behalf of Abused Alien Spouses, 2010-2013
Fiscal Year Adjustments Admissions Totals
2010 5,886 249 6,135
2011 4,470 191 4,661
2012 3,005 187 3,192
2013 2,527 130 2,657

So, the first piece of good news is that this very small part of family migration to the United States has been falling steadily throughout the last four fiscal years while most other migration flows have remained steady or increased.

Perhaps this relates to fewer instances of abuse by U.S. citizens, though I doubt such a slow-moving trend would be reflected as sharply as these numbers indicate. Maybe the government is getting more careful in its decision-making, though, as we show below, the game is rigged in favor of the alien. Maybe a backlog of genuine abuse cases is dissipating. Or maybe interior immigration law enforcement is so lax that there is no urgency for illegals to seek a green card in this way.

USCIS, unfortunately, does not provide us with approval/denial numbers on these applications, a usual form of non-transparency from that agency.

In any case it is a good thing that some part of the immigration flow is self-reducing. No ceilings or caps apply to these cases, incidentally, which USCIS characterizes as those of "self-petitioning" immediate relatives of citizens.

Personal. I was reminded of this kind of immigration-related marriage fraud by a reader, Kenneth Brown of Houston, Texas. He is a native-born U.S. citizen, a 41-year-old Navy veteran, and a college graduate. He is also a victim, he argues, of immigration-related marriage fraud of the D-2 variety.

The good news here is distinctly of the silver-lining variety; the experience has been painful and expensive for him, but Brown is ready to be a congressional witness on this matter should Congress decide, after a gap of nearly 30 years, to conduct a hearing on this issue.

Why is that significant? Though it is an obscure insight on an obscure subject, I know from my own experience as an expert witness at the last congressional hearing on the subject, back in the summer of 1985, that one of the staffers for Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), John R. Ratigan, spent most of a year finding articulate immigration/marriage fraud victims willing to tell their stories to a Senate subcommittee.

All were in what I regard as D-1 situations; they were citizens who had entered what they thought were sound marriages with aliens, only to discover later that they were being used to produce green cards. This was touched on in a previous blog

Locating these otherwise nameless victims is extremely difficult, and getting them to agree to testify is another major hurdle; so Brown's willingness to talk to Congress is encouraging. Let's hope there is a hearing.

The underlying news, the reason why Brown is a potential witness is, of course, less cheerful, and can be summarized as follows:

He and Ms. X, a citizen of Dubai, and a holder of a J-1 visa, met on May 14, 2011; in July of that year they traveled together to Hawaii; in October they separated and, subsequently, reunited; in December they went to Jamaica together; in January 2012, she told him that she was pregnant and that she would be subject to severe discrimination were she to return to Dubai pregnant and unmarried. They went to an immigration lawyer in February 2012; in March 2012 they married; in May 2012, they signed immigration documents that would lead to a conditional resident card for her; seven days later she moved out of their shared apartment; and they started living together in September 2012, which was the month the baby was born. Brown filed for divorce in December 2012, withdrew those papers the next month, and then re-filed later; she called the police several times saying that Brown was abusing her, but no charges were filed. She filed, successfully, for a green card on the grounds of spousal abuse. His divorce case is to be heard in Houston in January 2015. He recently hired a former INS investigator, John N. Sampson, who filed a detailed account of the situation, with much convincing documentation.

I asked Brown to look over the preceding paragraph, and he requested that the following be added:

The [state] judge in the divorce case held her in contempt for setting up circumstances to bolster her VAWA petition and for not abiding by the orders [of the court]. Her punishment was a (suspended) six-month jail term. Although she was claiming she was subjected to violence by me (after she filed her VAWA petition), she requested that I come to her house at least 13 times. Who would want their alleged violent abuser to come to their place of residence?

Feelings often run high in these cases. Now, I have not heard her side of the story and probably never will, but what he describes sounds like a fairly typical Class D-2 marriage fraud scenario.

Procedural. In most adversarial situations, civil or criminal, both sides of an issue are given notice of the other's allegations and there is a chance for questions and cross-examination. This is not the case in these proceedings. USCIS often, if not always, makes up its mind about an application for abused spouse status without informing the citizen spouse of the matter, as it apparently did here. Nor does the allegedly abusing spouse seem to have a right to appeal.

Brown has brought the matter to the attention of the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, but has not received a substantive reply from FDNS. He took the matter to the Houston office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was told that the only time ICE investigates marriage fraud is when it involved organized crime, which this case clearly does not. I have heard from others in Brown's situation who have experienced the same frustrations.

It looks as if Ms. X is getting away with her green card gambit and, given this story, I find it odd, but encouraging, that the numbers of "self-petitioning" cases, the combined totals of legitimate and illegitimate ones, is decreasing.

As for Brown, he understandably wants two things: first, a thorough investigation of what he regards as a sham marriage, and second, that VAWA be revised so that aliens like Ms. X can no longer abuse the system and their citizen spouses, and he is willing to go public about it.

Let's hope he gets a chance to talk to Congress, as he has communicated with the Center.