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 LPR status.
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 & Hanich
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.