By Michael Hernandez
The U.S. signed off on thousands of immigration requests over the past decade from men seeking to bring brides as young as 15 with them, according to a report published Friday.
The requests processed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or CIS, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, are in compliance with U.S. law, according to The Associated Press. The act does not set an age requirement for approvals, and the department defers to whether the marriage would be legal in the applicant's home country, as well as if it would be legal under relevant state law.
Most states allows minors to marry with qualifications. Massachusetts and New Hampshire have some of the lowest age requirements at 12 and 13, respectively.
Massachusetts requires the permission of a judge and/or a parent while New Hampshire requires both.
The State Department did not respond to Anadolu Agency's request for comment due to the ongoing government shutdown, nor did CIS.
But the AP said the data it obtained "raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how U.S. laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage."
The data requested by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in 2017 found more than 5,000 cases of adults seeking to bring in minors, and about 3,000 other cases of minors petitioning to have older spouses or fiancees emigrate to the U.S.
The AP talked to some victims of forced marriage who said the U.S.'s immigration laws coupled with the power of a U.S. passport has contributed to the problem.
"My passport ruined my life," Naila Amin, a dual U.S.-Pakistan citizen who grew up in New York City told the AP.
Amin was forced to marry a 26-year-old husband in Pakistan when she was just 13.
"People die to come to America," said Amin, now 29. "I was a passport to him. They all wanted him here, and that was the way to do it."
She was engaged to her first cousin when she was just 8, eventually running away from home to escape the forced marriage, and preventing him from coming to the U.S.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson told The AP the government data shows lawmakers have to work on the problem.
"It indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close," he said.