WASHINGTON: Thousands of requests by men originally from other countries, including Pakistan, to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by AP news agency. 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 fiancées, US Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.
But the data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how US laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the US, and most states allow children to marry with some restrictions.
There were more than 5,000 cases of adults petitioning on behalf of minors and nearly 3,000 examples of minors seeking to bring in older spouses or fiancés, according to the data requested by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in 2017 and compiled into a report.
Some victims of forced marriage say the lure of a US passport combined with lax US marriage laws are partly fuelling 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 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 eight and he was 21. The petition was eventually terminated after she ran away.
She said the ordeal cost her a childhood. She was in and out of foster care and group homes, and it took a while to get her life on track.
“I was a child. I want to know: why weren’t any red flags raised? Whoever was processing this application, they don’t look at it? They don’t think?” she asked.
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.
Over that period, there were 5,556 approvals for those seeking to bring in minor spouses or fiancées, and 2,926 approvals by minors seeking to bring in older spouses, according to the data. Additionally, there were 204 approvals of applications by minors seeking to bring in minor spouses.
Petitions can be filed by US citizens or permanent residents.
“It indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close,” said Republican Sen Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
In nearly all the cases, the girls were the younger person in the relationship. In 149 instances, the adult was older than 40, and in 28 cases the adult was over 50, the committee found.
Among the examples: in 2011, immigration officials approved a 14-year-old’s 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 statistics on child marriage, but data from a few states suggests it is far from rare. State laws generally set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, yet every state allows exceptions.
Most states let 16- and 17-year-olds marry if they have parental consent, and several states including New York, Virginia and Maryland allow children under 16 to marry with court permission.
Pakistan seeks greater partnership with WB: PM
ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan has told WB that Pakistan looked forward to greater partnership with World Bank (WB) in critical areas including eco-tourism, mountain, and religious tourism.
Talking to a delegation of World Bank headed by Vice President South Asia Hartwig Schafer in Islamabad today Imran Khan said that these sectors which have a huge potential towards the uplift of the poor and poverty alleviation. He highlighted various steps being taken by the government towards economic stability, poverty alleviation and improving ease of doing business in the country. The delegation comprised of Vice President Human Development Annete Dixon, Country Director Illangovan Patchamuthu, Operations Manager Melinda Good and Senior Country Manager IFC Nadeem Siddiqui. Special Assistant of Prime Minister on Political Affairs Naeem-ul-Haq, Secretary Finance Arif Ahmed Khan and others were also present in the meeting.
The delegation appreciated Prime Minister’s vision on the economic stability of the country, human development and addressing the issue of stunted growth due to malnutrition. It briefed the Prime Minister about various ongoing projects of the World Bank in various sectors including water supply, sewerage and waste management, transportation and connectivity, capacity building and ease of doing business in the country. It also offered WB’s assistance in attracting foreign investments, analytics, sharing of expertise and technical knowledge in various sectors to help the Government translate its vision into reality. Welcoming the offer, the Prime Minister appreciated World Bank’s continued engagement with Pakistan and its support towards capacity building, infrastructure development and economic growth.
NATO condemns Russian ‘build-up’ in Crimea
BRUSSELS: NATO today condemned what it called Russia’s “ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea” on the fifth anniversary of Moscow’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.
As Russia celebrated what it terms its “reunification” with Crimea, NATO hit out at Moscow over its plans to further militarise the Black Sea.
The annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict sent ties between NATO and Moscow plunging to post-Cold War lows. NATO said there would be no return to “business as usual” with Moscow until there was “a clear, constructive change in Russia’s actions.
“We condemn Russia’s ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea, and are concerned by Russia’s efforts and stated plans for further military build-up in the Black Sea region,” NATO’s ruling North Atlantic Council said in a statement. NATO holds that it would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and urged Moscow to return the territory to Ukraine.
Tokyo stocks open higher!
TOKYO: Stocks opened here higher today, tracking gains on Wall Street due to optimism over US-China trade talks, with investors closely eyeing the US Federal Reserve’s meeting later this week.
The Nikkei 225 index added 0.65 percent, or 139.64 points, to 21,590.49 in early trade, while the broader Topix index climbed 0.43 percent, or 6.82 points, to 1,609.45.