Unlike the familiar Frank Sinatra ditty, love and marriage don’t necessarily go together like a horse and carriage.
Sometimes, marriage is business, pure and simple.
And, sometimes, it’s just plain fraud.
On today’s front page is a story about two Massachusetts men secretly indicted and publicly arrested on multiple charges of arranging sham marriages in Maine between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in a scheme to bring immigrants to this country illegally.
According to the federal charges, many of the marriages were licensed and conducted in Lewiston and Auburn between 2003 and 2007 for the “purpose of defrauding the United States.”
The defendants, Rashid Kakande, 37, of Woburn and James Mbugua, 49, of Springfield will have their day in court to defend themselves, as anyone in the United States has the constitutional right to do, but the accusations highlight why American citizens are exercising less and less tolerance for illegal immigration.
There are processes in place to apply for permanent and temporary citizenship, and faking a marriage is not one of them. Nor should it be.
According to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, 450,000 U.S. citizens marry foreign nationals every year, and then petition the government to obtain permanent residency status — or a Green Card.
U.S. immigration laws recognize foreign nationals who marry citizens as “immediate relatives” of those citizens, which excludes such immigrants from having to wait in line to gain citizenship because they’re exempt from quota limitations. Which means, according to CIS, “there are an unlimited number of Green Cards available to foreign nationals who marry U.S. citizens.”
Talk about an engraved invitation to wedding fraud.
CIS tracks immigrant marriages to make sure they’re bona fide, including requiring proof of joint finances, shared lease agreements, photographs of the couple while dating and post-wedding, and perhaps even a Christmas card or two from friends and family.
If CIS doesn’t see this proof, the couple will be interviewed by a fraud officer to determine the legitimacy of the marriage. Most marriages, CIS reports, are legitimate, but there is plenty of fraud.
According to the Government Accountability Office, of the 20,000 foreign national applications for citizenship rejected by CIS in 2006 for fraud, 14 percent were sham marriage petitions. That accounted for 2,800 of the estimated 450,000 citizen-immigrant marriages that year.
In one of the cases detailed in this week’s federal indictment, a marriage recruit wedded in Newport admitted the marriage was a sham and withdrew the petition for citizenship. The indictment doesn’t spell out whether that recruit was deported, but that’s what should have happened.
The United States is a desirable place to live, and millions of people go through time-consuming and expensive legal channels to call this country home.
There can be no tolerance for people who shortcut that process through fraud, and we applaud the feds for investigating the fakes.
Arranged marriages are not new. In some cultures, arranged marriages have long been valued as a means of joining influential families for their shared success. In the early days of the American Colonial South, families arranged for first cousins to marry to preserve bloodlines. So, too, have royal families over the years, clinging to pure aristocracy.
One might argue the cultural importance of arranged marriages, but no one can argue that fraud is any foundation for marriage — or for citizenship.