Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the US were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by The AP. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl. The approvals are legal. In weighing petitions for spouses or fiancees, US 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. Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the US, and most states allow children to marry with some restrictions. But the data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage. There were more than 5,000 approvals in cases of adults petitioning on behalf of minors and nearly 3,000 for minors seeking to bring in older spouses or fiancees, according to the data.
Some victims of forced marriage say the lure of a US passport is partly fueling the petitions. Naila Amin is a dual citizen from Pakistan who grew up in New York City. She was forcibly married at 13 in Pakistan and applied for papers for her 26-year-old husband to come to the country. "I was a passport to him," she says. Amin, now 29, said the ordeal cost her a childhood. There is a two-step process for obtaining US immigration visas and green cards. Petitions are first considered by USCIS. If granted, they must be approved by the State Department. Overall, there were 3.5 million petitions received from budget years 2007 through 2017. Petitions can be filed by US citizens or permanent residents. The country where most requests came from was Mexico, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic, and Yemen. Middle Eastern nationals had the highest percentage of overall approved petitions.
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