Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marriage Fraud

Only possible thanks to federal law, and to a well stocked population of legal immigrants and their descendants. Marriage fraud is also easy to commit and neither U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or the U.S. Attorney's Office take it seriously. However it only happens because the U.S. law allows it to happen.

First, notice in this story that the fraud revolves around: Mexicans in all but name. Half of the party in any marriage designed to obtain legal residency in the United States must have an American half or another legal permanent resident alien. But, as unusual, the claim is that these illegals are American in all but name:




A 26-year-old illegal immigrant who came to this country when he was 13, Jose hasn’t been back to his native Mexico City since leaving. He’s assimilated down to his love of BeyoncĂ© and horn-rimmed glasses. He did everything a young migrant is supposed to do in the United States: graduated high school near the top of his class and finished college magna cum laude.







He dreams of becoming an accountant but must wait, one of the millions of illegal immigrants who came to this country as children, knowing little of the native lands they left long ago yet relegated to a perverse limbo in which they are culturally, but not legally, Americans.



Not so quick:


The banquet hall at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello is in bedlam. An 18-piece banda sinaloense, its brass section and bass drum so loud you can hear the music from the parking lot down the hill,booms through “La VĂ­bora de la Mar” (“The Sea Snake”). It’s a jaunty children’s tune played during Mexican weddings that finds grown men and women engaging in a version of “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” except participants race around the dance floor progressively faster and faster, hands interlocked, under the arms of the bride and groom.

That is not very assimilated.




“I wouldn’t call it a movement,” says Juana. “Yeah, I know about six girls who married guys to help them legalize and a couple of guys who did the same for girls. But some really liked them; others got paid. I wished a bunch of Chicanas got together to help out our undocumented hombres adjust their status. But it’s tough to pull off.”



So, where would these illegals be without their paisanos? Well, they could try it the Vietnamese way, but the risks are alot higher:




In 2005, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Santa Ana indicted 44 individuals, most of them Vietnamese Americans, for marriage fraud after completing a years-long investigation dubbed Operation Newlywed Game. The scam involved American citizens marrying Vietnamese and Chinese nationals, most of whom paid tens of thousands of dollars to enter the fake marriages. Among those arrested were students from Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. Everyone charged pleaded guilty; sentences ranged from 33 months in federal prison to probation.



But even that is not much of a threat. Sure marriage for money between two different ethnicities is easier to break and a little too obvious, as well as having other negative consequences:




“I’ve heard too many horror stories,” he said. He then tells the story of a friend of his mother’s: “He married a black woman, paying her $2,000. This was about 10 years ago. She still calls him every couple of months, threatening to go to immigration unless he pays her more money. He’s stuck in a nightmare.

When she asked him to formally divorce her so she could move on with her life, he refused. It took $2,000 to convince him otherwise.


However all this fraud is only possible because the law allows certain groups of illegal aliens, visa overstayers, to adjust status in the United States. None of the stories that were told in the above article could have been pulled of if the aliens were required to leave the U.S. like aliens who entered without inspection are required to:




“If they want to adjust their status, they have to have had a legal entry into this country,” says Flores, who works out of USCIS’s district headquarters in Los Angeles. “If they [came on a visa that expired], they can adjust it here. If they entered this country illegally—well, they’re not supposed to be here, and if they fell head over heels in love, they have to go back to their own country, and they have to do the visa process abroad like everyone else.”



It is much more difficult to maintain a fraudulent marriage when one or both have to live in Mexico. Most of the Chicanas here, for all their love of cosas Mexicanos, don't want to put up with actually living in Chicanas-land, down south of the border. But worse is the fact that only USCIS is concerned about marriage fraud. ICE and the USAO are not concerned about the crime at all.




When USCIS determines a case is phony, the agency forwards it to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau, which prosecutes those cases in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office. Flores is not sympathetic to people who commit the crime, no matter the circumstance. “The penalties for marriage fraud are written on the back of the I-130 petition,” Flores notes. “We’re not the prosecuting branch of the service; we just do the denial. But the next level shows no mercy.”



But, in fact, ICE does not investigate single event marriage fraud and the USAO does not prosecute single event marriage fraud. There is plenty of mercy, so much so one could call it non-feasance. Remember, ICE only cares about terrorists.




Such high-profile cases notwithstanding, the amount of marriage-fraud cases the U.S. Attorney’s office prosecutes each year in Southern California is “a small number, a single-digit number,” says spokesman Thom Mrozek. “We’ll prosecute cases when the evidence warrants a criminal prosecution.” The U.S. Attorney’s office doesn’t keep track of how many such cases it pursues, he says, but Mrozek could say “with confidence” that “almost all of the ones [ICE and CIS] send along get
prosecuted
.”



Well, that is technically true, but misleading. ICE sends no single event marriage fraud case to the USAO because they know the USAO will not prosecute such cases. Only those that involve wide conspiracies are prosecuted, but only occasionally. If no cases are referred, then they have no cases "when the evidence warrants criminal prosecution."

Almost all of nothing is still nothing. And nothing is what the USAO does to prosecute marriage fraud.

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