Immigration Marriage Fraud and VAWA Fraud 101
by John Sampson - CSI Consulting and Investigations
It is estimated that of the 300,000+ immigrant visas issued on the basis of a marriage to a US citizen each year, nearly 30% of them are fraudulent.
As a result, there are thousands of American citizens who are viciously victimized by foreign nationals who will stop at nothing to gain entry into this country. The sad part is that the United States government oftentimes is not willing to assist a victimized citizen in obtaining some semblance of justice, nor are they prepared to protect its citizens from the abuses heaped upon them by foreign nationals who abuse American citizens and the American immigration "system" to get what they want and what they believe they are entitled to as a matter of "right".
And thousands of American citizens are the victims of sham or fraudulent marriages perpetrated by cold and heartless foreign nationals seeking the American Dream which creates the American Nightmare for the unsuspecting American citizen.
A sham or fraudulent marriage under immigration law is a marriage contracted for the sole purpose of evading the numerical restrictions that otherwise limit immigration into the United States. In Lutwak v. United States the Supreme Court stated that "Congress did not intend to provide aliens with an easy means of circumventing the quota system by fake marriages in which neither of the parties ever intended to enter into the marital relationship . . . . "
Government statistics show that between 1978 and 1984 the number of immigrants acquiring status as spouses of United States citizens increased 43% as compared to a total immigration drop of 9.6%. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimated that 30% of these spousal relationships were fraudulent.
Furthermore, Congress was made aware of the problem by the Immigration Service's discovery of numerous marriage fraud rings around the country and national media attention.
There are generally two types of sham marriages. One is the collusive or "contract" marriage whereby a citizen agrees to marry an alien solely to enable the alien to achieve permanent resident status.
There is usually a fee involved for the citizen and an understanding that the marriage will be dissolved soon after the permanent resident status is obtained by the alien. The more blatant cases of this type of fraud have involved marriage "rings"' whereby citizen "spouses"' are supplied along with bogus documents.
The second type of sham marriage is a unilateral or "one-sided"' marriage whereby the alien deludes a citizen into the marriage, and upon receipt of derivative status the alien abandons the citizen spouse. It is these one sided marriage fraud schemes that cause the most damage to unsuspecting US citizens and their families. They are abused emotionally, financially, psychologically, and oftentimes, physically.
And no one seems to be interested in stopping this heinous crime. In my 27+ year career with USINS and its successor agency, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), I have seen hundreds of such victims, wondering what happened and why they were victimized. Many of them equated the abuse they suffered to that of a rape.
Enter The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994
In 1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which was intended to help address the issue of domestic violence in this country. However, due to the manner in which the law was implemented, it has resulted in an avalanche of false allegations of domestic violence, assault, rape, and other crimes, made by foreign nationals against their US citizen spouses.
Since 1994, there have been two subsequent Violence Against Women Act additions. One in 2000 and another in 2005. There is more pending legislation intended to solidify the Violence Against Women Act and make it difficult, if not impossible, to overcome allegations of domestic violence, even if the allegations of domestic violence are fabricated and fraudulent.
The question that is often asked by a citizen victim of VAWA fraud is "Why is this happening to me?" The answer is not complicated nor difficult to understand once you look at it objectively.
In a cold and calculating move to expedite the process a foreign national goes through to get Permanent Residence (or a "green card"), and in an effort to avoid the possibility of being discovered of having defrauded an unsuspecting American citizen, they routinely and callously falsely accuse their American spouse of domestic violence based crimes such as assault, rape, violation of restraining orders, and other criminal acts.
Tying It All Together
The motivation to commit such a heinous crime such as falsely accusing someone of a crime of domestic violence they did not commit is simple. Under normal marriage based immigrant visa applications, the expectation is that the parties married for all of the right reasons. They love each other, are attracted to each other, and wish to share their lives. As such, any delay in obtaining a green card for the foreign national spouse is acceptable and is part of the process and is to be expected.
However, a foreign national who is using and duping an unsuspecting American citizen into marrying them simply to get their green card, has no intention of sharing their life with the American citizen, is not attracted to them, does not love the American citizen, and wants out of the "relationship" as quickly as possible.
The problem that faces such a con artist is that depending on where in the US they are living, it may take from three months to thirty six months to have the required interview with USCIS in which both the citizen and the foreign national must appear. The purpose of the USCIS interview is to determine if the marital relationship is bona fide or if it is a sham. That poses a risk for the foreign national that during the course of the interview, their true intentions may be discovered and they will have their application for their permanent residence denied and they will be placed in removal proceedings.
How to avoid the necessity of having that interview and having to live and interact with a person the foreign national does not love, does not want to be with, and oftentimes detests, is the problem facing the con artist. Anything that would alleviate the necessity of living with their US citizen spouse and also alleviate the necessity of having to submit to the required interview, would be welcomed by a deceitful foreign national.
The United States Congress obligingly delivered a simple and yet an extremely effective solution to this vexing problem. They enacted the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and renewed it in 2000, and again in 2005.
Now, all the foreign national has to do, once they are married to their American "spouse" is to allege they are the victim of domestic violence or abuse. That allegation can come the day after the marriage, or even on the same day of marriage. It matters not.
They no longer have to reside with the US citizen, no longer have to pretend to love them, no longer have to interact with the US citizen, and, most importantly, they no longer have to appear for that inconvenient interview before USCIS. There is no conditional permanent residence status necessitating yet another interview in two years. They become a permanent resident alien in an instant.
Virtually all grounds of inadmissibility that would normally prevent a foreign national from getting their green card in a "conventional" marriage based visa scenario, are waived for foreign nationals claiming to have been abused because the foreign national is now a "victim".
Lastly, the VAWA unit of USCIS in Burlington, Vermont, issues a self petitioning foreign national who alleges abuse, a letter granting them "deferred action status" which means they cannot be deported or arrested by ICE. It's the mother of all "Get Out of Jail Free Cards".
At the same time the US citizen is sitting in jail or prohibited from going to his home because of a restraining order, the foreign national spouse cleans out the American citizen's bank account, takes his valuable possessions, and then has the audacity to claim that they, the foreign national, are the "victim".
Meanwhile, the American citizen is forced to hire attorneys to defend himself from the false criminal accusations, and to represent him in the divorce. He faces the bleak prospect of having to give 50% of his property to a con artist who has abused him, taken advantage of him, and has discarded him like yesterday's newspaper. And what is even more distressing is that the American citizen might have to pay her alimony or "spousal support", not to mention the very real possibility of being sentenced to jail or to prison for a crime he did not commit.
And if that wasn't enough, the foreign national "spouse" can go on welfare and the US Government, adding insult to injury, will send the American citizen the bill for this because he was so obliging by submitting an enforceable affidavit of support in connection with his foreign born spouse's immigrant visa application or application for adjustment of status. Isn't "love" grand?
Another "unintended consequence" of VAWA is that parties to pending divorce actions routinely falsely accuse the other party of domestic violence for no other reason than to gain an upper hand in negotiations regarding the "equitable distribution" of the marital assets, child custody, and child visitation orders and to prevent the other party from obtaining an equitable divorce settlement.
About the Author
John Sampson currently works as a private investigator and consultant specializing in immigration fraud, marriage fraud, false accusations of domestic violence, and alleged sexual assault. He operates CSI Consulting and Investigations.
He retired in August 2008 at the mandatory age of 57 from DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after 27 years of service as an immigration enforcement officer with ICE and the legacy agency, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), from which ICE evolved. With INS and ICE he specialized in marriage fraud cases and, more recently, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) fraud cases in which foreign nationals falsely accuse American citizens of domestic violence in order to gain an immigration benefit.