WASHINGTON (AP) – Thousands of requests from men, children's and youth brides to the United States have been approved by the Associated Press over the last decade, according to the government. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for a 15-year-old girl.
The permits are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not prescribe a minimum age. When weighing petitions for spouses or fiancé, US Citizenship and Immigration Services investigates whether marriage is legal in their home country and whether marriage is legal in the state where the petitioner lives.
However, the data raises questions about whether the immigration system facilitates forced marriage and how US laws can compound the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. Adultery between adults and minors is not uncommon in the United States, and in most states children are allowed to marry with restrictions.
There were more than 5,000 cases of minors on behalf of minors, and nearly 3,000 examples of minors who wanted to bring in elderly spouses or spouses, according to information requested by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in 201
Some victims of forced marriage say that the temptation of a US passport, coupled with lax US marriage laws, has fueled some of the petitions.
"My passport ruined my life," said Naila Amin, a dual citizen from Pakistan who grew up in New York City.
She was forcibly married in Pakistan at the age of 13 and requested papers for her 26-year-old husband who came to the country.
"People are dying to come to America," she said. "I was a pass for him. They wanted him all here, and that was the way to do it. "
Amin, now 29, said she was engaged to her first cousin Tariq when she was 8 years old and he was 21 years old. The petition was finally ended after she had finished running away. She said the torture cost her a childhood. She was in nursing homes and group homes and back, and it took a while for her to get her life on track.
"I was a kid. I would like to know: why were not red flags set? Who processed this application? You do not look at him. You do not think? Amin asked.
There are two steps to obtaining US Immigration and Green Cards petitions are first reviewed by USCIS, and if granted, they must be approved by the State Department, with a total of 3.5 million petitions  During this period, there were 5,556 grants for persons wishing to bring underage spouses or fiancé, and 2,926 for minors wishing to use older spouses' data Petitions may be submitted by US citizens or permanent residents.
"This indicates a problem, indicating a loophole we must close," said Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of the Wisconsin Homeland Security Committee of the Senate, opposite the AP.
In almost all cases the girls were the younger person in the relationship. In 149 cases the adult was older than 40 and in 28 cases he was over 50 years old, the committee noted. Examples: In 2011, immigration officials approved a 14-year 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 child marriage statistics, but data from a few states suggest that this is far from rare. State law generally sets 18 as the minimum age for marriage, but each state allows exceptions. Most states allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry if they have parental consent, and several states – including New York, Virginia, and Maryland – allow children under 16 years to marry with court approval.
Fraidy Reiss, who opposes forced labor Marriage as leader of a group called Unchained at Last, researched data from her native New Jersey. She noted that nearly 4,000 minors, mostly girls, were married in the state between 1995 and 2012, including 178 under 15 years old.
"This is a problem both domestically and in terms of immigration," she said.
Reiss – who claims that she was forced into an abusive marriage by his orthodox Jewish family at the age of 19 – said that cases of child marriage enforced by parental consent are compulsory a girl is forced to marry against her will.
subjected to a lifelong domestic bondage and rape, "she said. "And the government is not only complicit; They shape this and say, "Continue".
The data was requested in 2017 by Johnson and then Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, the committee's top democrat. Johnson said it took a year to get the information, and it turned out that there needed to be a better system to track and review the petitions.
"Our immigration system can inadvertently protect the abuse of women and children," the senators said in the letter
USCIS did not know how many permits were issued by the State Department, but in total only about 2.6 percent of claims are made Spouse or fiance rejected.
Regardless, the data shows that approximately 4,749 minor spouses or fiancée were received. Green cards are expected to live in the United States in the same decade.
USCIS leader L. Francis Cissna said in a letter to the committee that his request raises questions and discussions in the agency about what the agency can do to prevent forced marriages. The agency has identified some problems in collecting the data and solved it. Officials also created a labeling system that requires a birth date check when a minor is discovered.
The country from which most inquiries came was Mexico, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and Yemen. Middle Easterners had the highest proportion of total petitions approved.