Report: US Immigration Approved Thousands of Child Bride Requests

Nearly 6,000 approvals—some for minors as young as 13—were granted between 2007 and 2017.

child bride
The US approved thousands of petitions for child brides. (Getty)
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Despite every U.S. state having established laws that stipulate minimum legal ages for sexual intercourse, the federal government has apparently been effectively endorsing thousands of adult marriages to minors from overseas.

According an Associated Press report, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved thousands of child bride requests between 2007 and 2017. To obtain this kind of  visa or green card involves a two-step process. First, it is considered by USCIS and if granted, then must be approved by the State Department.

Some of the cases spotlighted by the AP involve a 49-year-old man who applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl, and a 71-year-old man who was approved for a 17-year-old wife. Over the ten year period investigated by the AP, 5,556 approvals were made for adults seeking to bring in minors and 2,926 approvals by minors seeking to bring in an older, adult spouse.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told the AP that their reporting “indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close.”

According to the AP: “USCIS didn’t know how many of the approvals were granted by the State Department, but overall only about 2.6 percent of spousal or fiancée claims are rejected. Separately, the data show some 4,749 minor spouses or fiancées received green cards to live in the U.S. over that same 10-year period.”

Child brides and marriage aren’t just an immigration issue, however. There are plenty of adult-to-minor marriages where both members are from here in the United States.

Fraidy Reiss, the head of a group called Unchained at Last, campaigns against coerced marriage. Reiss, who was forced into a marriage by her Orthodox Jewish family at 19, says child marriage granted through parental consent is a regular occurrence within the faith.

“[These minors] are subjected to a lifetime of domestic servitude and rape,” she told the AP. “And the government is not only complicit; they’re stamping this and saying: Go ahead.”

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