One of the most significant methods of immigrating to the United States
is through the sponsorship of a close family member who is already a U.S.
citizen. Under federal immigration law, spouses, children, and parents
of a U.S. citizen have priority immigration status. These family members
also have a good chance at becoming a
Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), which refers to a foreign individual who immigrated to the country
and was authorized to live here permanently.
However, federal immigration authorities have always been wary of what
are known as “green card marriages”—a term coined from
the green color of the document demonstrating that an immigrant has achieved
Federal law prohibits people from entering into a marriage with a U.S.
citizen for the purpose of evading immigration laws. As a result, marriages
between an American citizen and a foreign spouse have long been subjected
to intense scrutiny by U.S. immigration authorities. Part of determining
the validity of a marriage for immigration purposes involves a personal
interview between the immigrant spouse and an immigration enforcement agent.
Bait & Hook with the Ball & Chain
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Immigration Customs
and Enforcement (ICE) agents have been using marriage interviews to lure
people into custody for deportation. As a result, the ACLU has initiated
a class action lawsuit against federal agents for this practice.
Federal regulations promulgated under the Obama administration provided
relief to individuals entered the country and remained here contrary to
immigration laws but eventually married a U.S. citizen. Even persons with
standing deportation orders could take advantage of this lengthy process.
Couples who demonstrate the legitimacy of their marriage were eligible
to apply for a green card on behalf of their foreign spouse. Upon approval,
the immigrant spouse would be required to be interviewed at a U.S. consulate
overseas to obtain a visa to return to the country.
The purpose of this process is to prevent the hardship of forcing a spouse
or other close family member to leave the country—potentially for
years—pending development of a lawful immigration case, which must
be conducted from the immigrant spouse’s country.
However, documents and statements obtained during the discovery phase of
the lawsuit strongly suggest that U.S. officials had been coordinating
to target immigrant spouses who appear for marriage interviews trying
to legally immigrate to the U.S.
According to the plaintiffs, couples would go to their interviews to demonstrate
the good faith nature of their marriage. At the end of the interview,
the interviewer would indicate that the immigrant spouse was formally
approved for an immigrant visa, only to have ICE agents immediately arrest
the immigrant spouse on the spot.
The ACLU managed to remove many plaintiffs from the bleak conditions of
ICE detention centers, using an emergency order preventing deportation.
Family Law and Immigration
Because family immigration is one of the primary methods for legal immigration
into the U.S., state family law issues are often implicated as well. A
U.S. citizen who intends to marry a foreign national must sign an affidavit
where they promise to provide their spouse with financial support at least
125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This affidavit supersedes subsequent
marital agreements and divorce settlements with
spousal support provisions attempting to deviate from the terms of the affidavit.
Significantly, a finding of invalidity regarding marriages for immigration
purposes is independent of a finding of invalidity under state marriage
laws. As a result, U.S. citizens may be considered still legally married
to their deported immigrant spouses under state law.
Get in Touch with a Knowledgeable Attorney at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford
If you are seeking the professional legal advice of an experienced attorney
regarding a family law disputes, you should call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford
& Hanich. Our legal team has years of experience handling various
family law cases, including matters involving international legal concerning
and federal immigration issues.
To schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys to evaluate the merits
of your case, call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 687-6003 or
contact us online today.