US approved thousands of child bride requests
WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press.
In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl.
The approvals are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements.
And in weighing petitions for spouses or fiancees, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.
But the data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how U.S. laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage.
Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the United States, and most states allow children to marry with some restrictions.
There were more than 5,000 cases of adults petitioning on behalf of minors and nearly 3,000 examples of minors seeking to bring in older spouses or fiances, according to the data requested by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in 2017 and compiled into a report.
Some victims of forced marriage say the lure of a U.S. passport combined with lax U.S. marriage laws are partly fuelling the petitions.
There is a two-step process for obtaining U.S. immigration visas and green cards. Petitions are first considered by USCIS.
If granted, they must be approved by the State Department. Overall, there were 3.5 million petitions received from budget years 2007 through 2017.
Over that period, there were 5,556 approvals for those seeking to bring minor spouses or fiancees, and 2,926 approvals by minors seeking to bring in older spouses, according to the data. Additionally, there were 204 for minors by minors.
Petitions can be filed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents.