We Know about Sham, Immigration-Related Marriages, but How about Divorces?

By David North on June 18, 2014

Phony marriages designed to create illicit visas are well-known, and we have written about them frequently. How about sham divorces entered into for the same motivations?

That may sound unlikely, but the Sixth Circuit just ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) was right when it rejected a legalization (adjustment of status) plea from someone who had engaged in a phony divorce for immigration purposes.

Such a divorce makes (illegal) sense because of one of the many provisions in our immigration law. Congress decided that unmarried alien adult children of green card holders may be admitted as immigrants themselves, but married adult children of the same aliens cannot be. (Married adult children of citizens, however, may be admitted, but there are substantial visa backlogs.)

This is good public policy, when you think about it. The unmarried ones are less likely to create follow-on, or chain, migration than the married ones.

But while the distinction is appropriate, policy-wise, it also sometimes leads to a divorce of convenience, as it did in this case.

This is also a story of how conniving would-be migrants conspired to break up their own family, if briefly, because of the immigration law. It is the opposite of what the mas-migration people are always talking about — how enforcement of our laws sometimes interrupts family life — and thus, they argue, the well-deserved deportation of a particular law-breaker should not come to pass.

But back to our story: Ihsan Ali and Adla Bazzi were citizens of Lebanon when they married in 1975; they had five children together. In 1986 he divorced her, at a time when she was pregnant with their sixth child. The next year his father, an immigrant himself who had secured a green card, applied for Ihsan's admission as an unmarried child of a permanent resident alien. Ihsan went to the U.S. consulate in Tel Aviv and sought the related visa.

According to the decision (document 97-3, case 12-3759 in the files of PACER, the electronic filing system of the federal courts) at this point an alert consular official's "suspicions were raised by the fact that Bazzi's sixth child was born after the date of the divorce. ... Additionally ... his sister-in-law informed the embassy that Bazzi was still married and that the divorce was obtained fraudulently."

The visa was denied. Subsequently Adla entered the United States as an unmarried child of a green card holder, the children migrated too, as her offspring. All have since become citizens.

In 1995 Ihsan, came to the United States, apparently as an EWI (one who enters without inspection -- i.e., jumps the border) and rejoined his family in Michigan. He applied for an adjustment of status in 2008, apparently a tactical mistake as USCIS denied the application and ICE moved to deport him. Ihsan appealed to the BIA, and when rejected there, moved on to the circuit court.

The whole process took a long time. Whether he will, in fact, be deported is not known at this time, a variable not mentioned in the reporting of this case in the June 2 issue of Interpreter Releases, the immigration bar's trade paper.

Did You Notice? At this point some of my readers will have noticed an obvious problem, one I did not see recognized in the three judges' decision, or in the Interpreter Releases article — and that is that Adla Bazzi had been granted a visa in error by the State Department, and was subsequently, in error, made a U.S. citizen by the Department of Homeland Security.

Ms. Bazzi was admitted as an unmarried child of a green card holder, despite the fact that she obtained that "unmarried" status through the same phony divorce that had barred her husband (ex-husband?) from getting a visa. Maybe it is too much to expect that a visa denial to her then apparently one-time spouse would be noted in a records system available to the consular officer interviewing Ms. Bazzi. She, by the way, would have been foolish to have sought such a visa in Tel Aviv, where such a record might exist and presumably went to another consular office, such as the one in Beirut.

As soon as ICE moved to deport her husband — which led to the circuit court decision years later — ICE must have known that she was in the country illegally. I could find nothing in PACER to indicate an effort to deport her, something she would probably appeal to the courts as her husband did. I am not holding my breath for DHS to take action.

There is a further potential element to the case that may pop up in the future.

Ihsan Bazzi had been in the South Lebanese Army, which was allied strongly with Israel. It has long since disbanded, but a veteran of that organization might logically, and perhaps successfully, apply for asylum in the United States arguing that conditions had changed in his home country and it would be dangerous for him to return. Does a successful asylum application overturn an unrelated circuit court decision that one had defrauded the U.S. government?

Interesting question.

My take: they both should be deported to Lebanon where they can be "re-united" there, to use the term of the mas migration people. For the first time in decades both would be in legal status in the same country. Would not that be a good thing? The U.S. citizen children are all in their 20s and 30s and can fend for themselves.