US Immigration Policies Okay Child Marriage
The US government recognizes child marriages between US legal residents and minors and give visas and legal resident status.
The United States has been granting visas and even citizenship to adult-child couples for over a decade. This development has not only raised concerns that the US government is endorsing child marriages, it also points out that the government policy may lead to servitude and rape associated with child marriages. This is largely because the government approves child marriages contracted outside the country and also allows such marriages to remain in place under given conditions.
Every year, thousands of people apply to have their child-brides join them in the United States. There was the case of a 49-year-old man who applied to have his 15-year-old bride unite with him in the States.
US Government Approves Child Marriage Visas
The US government has approved thousands of such applications, and they’re all legal. The reason for this is that the Immigration and Nationality Act has no mandatory requirements for age.
Meanwhile, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants approval for spouses or fiancees to join with their partners in the US if their marriage is valid in their home country and also in the state where the applicant resides.
The problem, however, is whether the US immigration system is promoting forced marriage against the law and enabling the problems associated with forced and child marriage.
It is not uncommon to have an adult marry a minor in the US, and it is possible for two minors to get married if they meet certain conditions.
The general age of consent is 18 throughout the US, but most states allow marriages under 18 with parental or judicial approval. Only two states ban child marriage outright: Delaware and New Jersey. Seventeen states have no minimum age for marriage while two states have a minimum age of 14, five states have a minimum age of 15, 19 states have a minimum age of 16, and seven states have a minimum age of 17.
Fraidy Reiss, leader of Unchained at Last, a group fighting against forced marriage in New Jersey, said about 4000 children mostly made up of girls married in the state between 1995 and 2012. About 178 of these minors were younger than 15. Reiss was forced into an abusive marriage at 19.
“They are subjected to a lifetime of domestic servitude and rape,” Reiss said. “And the government is not only complicit; they’re stamping this and saying: Go ahead.”
Child Marriages For a Visa or Green Cards
The Senate Homeland Security Committee found that in 2017 more than 5000 adult applicants filed for their child partners to join them in the country and about 3000 minors applied to have adult partners united with them in the country.
Analysts, as well as victims of forced marriage, believe the prospect of eventually owning a US passport is the reason to bring fiancees and spouses to the country.
Naila Amin, a Pakistani, who grew up in New York was married at 13 in her home country. Amin believes she was forced to marry in order for her 26-year-old husband to get a passport to come into the US. She had earlier been promised to her first cousin when she was 8, but she ran away and was in and out of foster homes.
“My passport ruined my life,” Amin told the Associated Press. “I was a passport to him. They all wanted him here, and that was the way to do it. People die to come to America.”
About 3.5 million applications to have spouses come to the US were filed between 2007 and 2017. Apart from the applications, 4749 minor spouses or fiancées were granted green cards to live in the US within this same period. To be approved for immigration visas and green cards, the USCIS must first approve the petition, and the State Department must equally ratify the approval. Only permanent residents and US citizens can file petitions to have visas or green cards granted under the family reunification policy.
Statistics showed the government granted 5556 applications filed by adults to have their child spouses join them in the US, and 2926 applications filed by minors to invite older partners were granted. The country with the highest number of petitions was Mexico, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and Yemen.