Forced marriages are deplorable under all circumstances, but many of them involve immigration-related marriage fraud, making them that much more so.
The pattern, in the latter cases, is usually that of fairly recently immigrated parents of a young citizen woman forcing her to marry someone from the old country against her will. The groom is typically older, typically a little better off financially than the bride's family, typically from the ancestral village, and often wanting a green card.
People worrying about such marriages are usually much more concerned about the coercion than the green card question, which is often, but not always, present in forced marriages.
They rarely emphasize that this is an almost wholly Muslim problem; that would be accurate, but quite politically incorrect. UK data, discussed in a previous blog show that forced marriages relate mostly to people from Muslim nations.
Similarly, the concept of using our marriage laws, our immigration laws, and our law enforcement resources to address the problem is also, sadly, not to be discussed. The activists in this field prefer culturally aware, gentler approaches.
It is a little like people in our Old West tackling the problem of horse thefts by training the victims (the horses) to avoid being stolen, and by seeking to remind potential horse thieves of the significance of the Ten Commandments. No one's sensibilities are jarred, but there is also little or no progress.
All this was on display yesterday when the good people of the Tahirih Justice Center, in Falls Church, Va., put on a webinar to promote a new report on the subject. It is "Voices from the Frontline" by Vidya Sri and Darakshan Raja, the former a one-time victim of a forced marriage.
After a solid report on the nature of these marriages, and the level of abuse within them, the authors have some recommendations; neither the word "immigration" nor "fraud" is mentioned, nor is the statutory marriage age in the states, which in California (a big migration state) is 18. The readers, however, are warned against "a premature criminal justice response".
I think this is a serious mistake made because the critics of forced migration are too close to the families that cause the problems.
Further, I think that there is potential for stern and useful government action in this area, partially because the politics are so ripe for it. Liberals do not want to see girls thrust into forced marriages with older men; conservatives do not want to see more immigration fraud; and, best of all, there is no sentimental or economic interest that supports such marriages (that is, beyond the hierarchies of old men in the Indian subcontinent).
I would suggest that the forced marriage critics should consider the following steps:
An Easy First Step. Get a California Democratic woman in Congress, maybe Sen. Diane Feinstein or Rep. Zoe Lofgren (ranking minority member of the House immigration subcommittee) to ring up the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, Janice Jacobs, and suggest the following: If an alien wants to marry a resident of California for a green card, and the date on the application is before the Californian's 18th birthday, then the visa is not only denied, the applicant is told that any future visa application of his will be scrutinized with special care because of his documented disregard for American law. And ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Then the denials should be widely publicized in the home nation, with perhaps the applicants' names redacted.
A Sensible Next Step. The forced marriage critics, again supported by members of Congress, should appeal to the administration to create an American counterpart to the UK's Forced Marriage Unit in its Home Office, an in-house study, advocacy, and intervention group whose fine work we reported on in the previously cited blog. This would be a good step toward the broader use of law enforcement to prevent forced marriages, and to undo them if they cannot be prevented.
A Nixon-to-China Move. If the forced marriage critics, typically on the left, are really sincere about their concerns they should take a deep breath and seek the support of those on the right who are mightily worried about potential terrorists arriving from the Middle East. Both the abusive husbands and the potential terrorists, two populations which may or may not overlap, have some things in common — their gender, their geographical origin, and their religion.
It would be a potent, if unlikely, coalition.