Green-card marriage scams fasttrack to US citizenship

Marriage-Based Green Card Fraud On The Rise Amid Controversy Surrounding Merit-Based Immigration System

A speedy marriage to a U.S. citizen can reduce an immigrant’s waiting time for a visa from five years to three months, according to Newsweek. The current climate regarding the immigration laws in the United States has made business very lucrative for marriage brokers wanting to unite immigrants with their American “spouse.”

The marriage brokers — who also function as travel agents, notaries public, lawyers or entrepreneurs — solicit willing partners who are often down-and-out divorcees, homosexuals, prostitutes, or addicts in methadone clinics, according to Newsweek.

Just recently, President Trump backed a controversial immigration bill, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act. The legislation would create a “merit-based” point system that would prioritize high-skilled foreigners seeking to come to the U.S. According to Forbes, the system would replace the current family-based immigration system that has formed the basis of U.S. immigration laws for the past 50 years.

The RAISE Act would also prioritize green card awards to those who speak English, can financially support themselves and have job skills useful to the U.S., according to the Los Angeles Times.

Back in February of 2017, Liana Barrientos married 10 men in over 11 years in a green-card marriage scam. Many of the husbands were from “red-flagged” countries, according to Fox News. One of Barrientos’ spouses made threatening statements against the U.S. and was deported to his home country of Pakistan, according to authorities.

US naturalization ceremony
A quickie marriage can reduce immigrants waiting time for a visa from five years to three months. [Image by Jae C. Hong/AP Images]

The marriage broker who unites immigrants with U.S. citizens will arrange a wedding for a fee ranging from $500 to as much as $3,000. The broker will also provide the necessary documents to satisfy the immigration board.

The American “spouse” will usually obtain a 25 to 50 percent “kickback” from the broker and never lives with their foreign partner. The couple never consummates the marriage and may only see their legal spouse once more when they sign the petition for the visa.

In 2016, Barrientos agreed to a plea deal in exchange for up to 18 months in an outpatient program treating substance abuse and mental illness. Barrientos said the 10 marriages were a “stupid moment” due to the father of her child being in jail. Barrientos reasoned that obtaining “$5,000 to $10,000 for 10 minutes [getting married] was better than stripping or selling drugs.”

Liana Barrientos married 10 times in immigration scam.
Liana Barrientos married 10 times in 11 years while conducting various green-card marriage scams throughout the East coast. [Image by Julio Cortez/AP Images]

The notorious “serial bride” said her biggest regrets were “disappointing my kids and that I could have brought bad people here who could kill. I could have let people stay in this country who could have bombed [New York] or anywhere else. That’s f***** up.”

Upon reflection, Liana said she made decisions that she will have to live with for the rest of her life.

“This is what I get because of my own selfishness and not doing my homework. I would have to live with that for the rest of my life.”

The illegal marriages of Barrientos spurred interest and an investigation from The Department of Homeland Security when it was discovered that one of her husbands was from a “red-flag” country.

Barrientos, who is 40-years-old, apologized to America after a court appearance and acknowledged that she could have “accidentally married a terrorist” and endangered the country. At one point, the Bronx woman was married to eight men at the same time, according to Fox News.

“I apologize to the American people because I could have put them at risk… I could have let people stay in this country who could have killed us.”

In 2015, just over one million foreigners were awarded green cards, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

One immigrant woman didn’t want to leave New York when her Visa expired and married a struggling American actor to obtain her green-card. The woman said she had “fled a troubled phase in London for a second chance in New York, fallen in love with the city and overstayed her tourist visa” because she “couldn’t bear to drag” herself back home.

According to her lawyer, she could “Leave the country and be banned from re-entry for ten years. Or get married.”

The woman alleged that she met her soon-to-be husband through friends, and he agreed to the marriage for the going rate of $12,000, according to Salon.

“If Joe and I could pass the notoriously grueling marriage interview, I would have my Green Card and he would have a big chunk of cash. If we failed, I would be deported and he would spend a few years in prison.”

Marriage-Based Green Card Scammers Prey On The Lonely And Elderly

According to Newsweek, it is not unusual for young alien women to approach single, elderly men, offering to live with them and care for their home.

“We have a number of cases where elderly men—wanting one last fling—marry a voluptuous 18-year-old alien with hopes that life will start anew,” says Gordon Davidson of the San Francisco INS office. “It usually doesn’t.”

The INS sometimes launches “field investigations,” such as the INS investigators in New York who made a late-night call to a 26-year-old alien Italian and his 72-year-old American wife to check if both sides of the bed were warm. They were, and the visa was granted.

The couples who face extreme scrutiny are questioned separately and asked things such as the color towels they used that morning, what they had for breakfast and the number of TVs they own.

Ruth Zivoli, an inspector for the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Miami, interviewed an older American woman and her young foreign-born husband. The couple wanted to seek a petition for the husband’s permanent-resident status as the spouse of an American citizen, according to Newsweek.

However, Zivoli became suspicious of the American woman and her new foreign husband.

Zivoli thought the woman, who had an unusual first name, seemed quite familiar. While the American wife protested, Zivoli checked the files to discover that the woman not only was bringing in her second new “husband” in three months but that she had also filed for six other “husbands,” using various last names.

RAISE Act proposes merit based immigration system
Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act would halve the number of green cards currently issued by 50 percent over the next ten years. [Image by Rogelio V. Solis/AP Images]

The RAISE Act proposes to cut the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. by half to 50,000 each year. Despite being introduced six months ago, it is uncertain how far bill will make it through the legislative process. The bill is still being reviewed by the Committee on the Judiciary.

[Featured Image by Mary Altaffer/AP Images]