Senate Holds a Rare Hearing on Immigration-Related Marriage Fraud

By David North on March 27, 2017

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a rare hearing earlier this month on a long-neglected subject, immigration-related married fraud.

Two U.S. citizens came forward to testify that they had been hoodwinked by aliens who subsequently abused the witnesses after securing what they had wanted in the first place — not love and marriage, but a green card.

Both of the aliens used K-1 visas to gain admission to the United States, one of the techniques used in this kind of fraud. Citizens ask that the government issue K-1s to their prospective alien spouses; the process assumes that the alien and the citizen will marry within three months of the alien's arrival in the United States and that both citizen and alien are, in fact, single and eligible for marriage.

The two citizens, apparently brushing aside concerns about their own privacy, were Elena Lopez and Dr. Jamal Hussain; both told how aliens, pretending to love them, had abandoned them once legal status had been obtained. In the case of Lopez, she said that her husband had attempted to strangle her, and had aimed a rifle at her, firing blanks and laughing. Hussain's fiancée had apparently been married and divorced earlier, and had not reported those events, as she should have, on her visa application. Both citizens suffered financial and emotional losses as a result of this mis-firing of the immigration law.

Lopez had a spouse from Holland; Hussain's fiancée was from his native Pakistan. There was a marriage in the first case, but none in the second. It was not clear from the testimony, but neither alien apparently has been penalized for this behavior, and both aliens seemed to preserve their legal status.

Both Lopez and Hussain said that their attempts to secure justice from immigration officials were ignored, an important point that, sadly, was not mentioned again in the hearings. We at the Center hear, all too often, how DHS officials ignore evidence presented by citizen victims of marriage fraud; one reason for this is the way that the Violence Against Women Act is written.

In a sense, the hearing had the feel of ships passing in the night. The two victims told how much they had been hurt by official neglect of their complaints. The five government witnesses talked about various processes used to prevent marriage fraud, and (as far as I could hear) never mentioned what should be done to help the victims of immigration-related marriage fraud.

The eighth witness was an immigration lawyer, Grace Huang, who warned against causing harm by over-reacting to the cited problems, and spoke of some occasions when K-1 visas were mis-used by citizens to exploit alien women. The senators were largely concerned with loopholes in the process, and called for more vigilance in the administration of the law. None of these passing ships seemed to communicate with each other.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a cameo appearance toward the ending of the hearing, substituted for the chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and recalled that the K-1 visa had played a role in the terrorist shooting in San Bernardino.

I hope that this hearing will be as productive as one I attended long ago. That one, on July 26, 1985, was conducted by then-Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), and led to the passage of legislation that made it impossible for quick re-marriages of fraudsters, establishing a two-year waiting period before the alien/citizen marriage could lead to a green card. This was an important step in the right direction. I was an expert (not a victim) witness at that hearing; most of the other witnesses were citizens telling stories very much like those of Lopez and Hussain. In other words, this is not a new problem.