The data raises questions about whether the immigration system might be enabling forced marriage and about how U. S. laws might be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage.
WASHINGTON — Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the U. S. were approved during the past decade, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl.
The approvals are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements. And in weighing petitions for spouses or fiancees, U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.
But the data raises questions about whether the immigration system might be enabling forced marriage and about how U. S. laws might be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the U. S., and most states allow children to marry, with some restrictions.
There were more than 5,000 cases in which adults petitioned on behalf of minors and nearly 3,000 examples in which minors sought to bring in older spouses or fiances, according to the data requested by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in 2017 and compiled into a report.
Some victims of forced marriage said the lure of a U. S. passport combined with lax U. S. marriage laws are partly fueling the petitions.
“My passport ruined my life,” said Naila Amin, a dual citizen from Pakistan who grew up in New York City.
She was married forcibly at 13 in Pakistan and applied for papers for her 26-year-old husband to come to the country.
“People die to come to America,” she said. “I was a passport to him. They all wanted him here, and that was the way to do it.”
Amin, now 29, said she was betrothed to her first cousin, Tariq, when she was just 8 and he was 21.

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