Most Americans are shocked to hear that full-grown men are marrying 8-year-old girls in foreign countries. A new report by that was just released about child brides being imported to America, is equally shocking.
According to the AP, the United States government has approved requests for over 5,000 child or adolescent brides to be brought to the U.S., enabling them to be forced into marriage.
According to the Daily Caller, U.S. immigration authorities approved 5,556 requests from older men to bring child or adolescent wives to the U.S. and approved 2,926 requests from young girls to bring their older husbands to the U.S. between the budget years of 2007 and 2017. The data also revealed 4,749 minor spouses or fiancees had received U.S. green cards in that time period.
The highest percentage of requests came from Middle Eastern nationals, with the majority of requests coming from Mexico, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic, and Yemen.
According to the AP- There is a two-step process for obtaining U.S. immigration visas and green cards. Petitions are first considered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. If granted, they must be approved by the State Department. Overall, there were 3.5 million petitions received from budget years 2007 through 2017.
“It indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close,” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told the AP.
In nearly all the cases, the girls were the younger person in the relationship. In 149 instances, the adult was older than 40, and in 28 cases the adult was over 50, the committee found. In 2011, immigration officials approved a 14-year-old’s petition for a 48-year-old spouse in Jamaica. A petition from a 71-year-old man was approved in 2013 for his 17-year-old wife in Guatemala.
There are no nationwide statistics on child marriage, but data from a few states suggests it is far from rare. State laws generally set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, yet every state allows exceptions. Most states let 16- and 17-year-olds marry if they have parental consent, and several states — including New York, Virginia and Maryland — allow children under 16 to marry with court permission.
The requests and their approvals were apparently legal, according to government data obtained by The Associate Press, due to the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not limit the age of spouses. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also approves or denies requests based on whether the marriage is legal in the home country and the state of the applicant.
In the cases where adolescent girls applied for their older husbands to come over, immigration officials fear they are being forced to do so and used to gain citizenship for the men who married them.
Naila Amin is a dual citizen of Pakistan and the U.S. Amin’s parents arranged for her to marry a Pakistani man in his 20s when she was just 8 years old.
Her parents reportedly flew her to Pakistan when she was 13 to be married to the man, then flew her back to the U.S. and forced her to apply for her husband to come to the U.S.
Amin, who endured beatings and sexual assault from the man, said she was “a lottery ticket” for the man’s citizenship.
“People die to come to America. I was a passport to him. They all wanted him here, and that was the way to do it,” Amin told AP.
Amin ran away from her family, and the petition for the man who she was forced to marry fell through. She since reconciled with her family, but she spent years in and out of foster care before she could rebuild her life. Amin said she has a hard time understanding how her situation did not alarm immigration officials.
Here is just a part of Amin’s story, that can be found on the Muslim Leadership Alliance website:
The foster care system had no idea on what to do with a child like me. There was a lot of turmoil. They were not culturally competent enough. I was probably the first case they ever had of a child bride. There was also a lack of therapists who really understand me. Most importantly there was a lack of resources. They could not even find me one Muslim foster home. They did not even know what halal food was. I remember eating pizza for 3 months straight in the beginning.
I was in these group homes with girls of every ethnicity except for someone like me. Everyone had similar issues, except me. I was the only one there because I had cultural differences with my parents and was there for being too “Americanized.” No one knew how I felt or what was going through my head.
So I ran away from one of the many group homes I was in and I actually went to my parents’ house. I hid out there until my parents got me a ticket to go to Pakistan. I figured I will stay there until I turn 18 and then come back. Then the state won’t have any jurisdiction over me. I totally hated the group home life.
I left for Pakistan in October 2004 while I was still a ward of the state. Three months later came January 5, 2005, the day a part of me died forever. I was sent to go live with my husband Tariq that day. My dad gave him his 15 year old daughter to rape and beat. The first night Tariq entered our bedroom I wanted to disappear or have the ground open up and swallow me. He tried to touch me but I was not having it. I remember making a barrier in the bed. It was a very uncomfortable night.
By the second day of our wedding, my parents as well as his knew we were not happy. I begged my mother to take me home. She said she had no say. I tried running away several times, but always failed. I got the ultimate beat downs after I was found, always in front of the whole family. My mother would watch my husband and my father kick me together in the head, yet her screams were never heard.
After one of many attempts to escape, my uncle brought me back and said it will all be okay. I told him: if something happens to me, call Child Protective Services and let them know that I was here and killed in the name of an honor killing, so that they could stop looking for me as a missing person in the U.S.
Luckily, when I returned with my uncle, my husband blamed him for eloping with me. My uncle was furious and called CPS. I was left in Pakistan by myself, while my husband had my passport and my parents returned to the U.S. My mother was arrested, and eventually I was brought back here.
I am extremely lucky to be alive.