History will show that President Donald Trump was propelled into the White House in 2016 largely on his immigration stance, which he reduced to a simple yet politically effective phrase: “Build that wall.”
While a robust physical barrier on the border would certainly help, the problems with our immigration laws have proven to be both myriad and maddeningly intractable.
So great is the desire of millions of noncitizens to emigrate here that seemingly endless backdoors in our laws are exploited to facilitate entry into our country. One such law, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), was recently in the news when the House of Representatives voted 263-158 to renewthe domestic violence legislation after it expired this past December.
Reauthorization will depend on the outcome of what likely will be a fiercely partisan Senate debate.
While an effort to reduce violence against women should have unanimous support, the details of VAWA reveal it has been manipulated by foreigners seeking legal status in the U.S. and opened the floodgates to widespread marriage fraud.
The preservation of Second Amendment rights has been the main focus of House Republicans as they review VAWA, since new provisions in the law tighten restrictions on gun ownership. While the debate over the law is now largely seen as yet another gun control battle, scant attention has been paid to VAWA’s destructive effects on American citizens as well as our already overwhelmed immigration system.
Under VAWA, any foreign national, male or female, can report abuse by a family member without any proof.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), “you may self-petition under VAWA … without your abusive family member’s knowledge or consent.”
The real injustice of VAWA is what happens after abuse is reported. After a self-petition is approved, an alien can begin a process to collect alimony or half the American spouse’s assets in a community property state. This is done with no opportunity for the accused spouse to defend himself or herself or contest the allegations.
The result is that unscrupulous foreign nationals can lure American citizens into a sham marriage, then allege abuse as a way to fast-track themselves toward green cards and federal benefits — all while ruining their American spouses’ reputation and finances in the process.
Anti-borders politicians have turned a blind eye to the suffering that VAWA has caused, instead opting to score political points. As Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), a survivor of domestic violence abuse from her ex-husband, noted, “This [VAWA] is nothing but a political strategy by the Democrat Party to put in things in this bill that aren’t bipartisan, that are totally partisan, knowing that Republicans will vote no so that the Democrats can say Republicans are against women.”
The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) receives a steady flow of letters from people who claim they have been victimized by foreign-born spouses using them to gain immigration status. One of the more recognizable cases IRLI was involved in concerned whistleblower Elena Maria Lopez.
Lopez alleges she was forced to flee her home and go into hiding after her husband, a Dutch citizen, admitted he only married her to get into the U.S.
Lopez claims he attempted to kill her, used intimidation tactics to keep her quiet, and lied about material facts to get his fiancé visa and green card.
Under VAWA, the constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is inverted to being presumed guilty with no opportunity to be proven not guilty.
Domestic violence is a very serious issue that should not be taken lightly. However, politicians are violating the basic tenets of jurisprudence through VAWA and enabling widespread fraud in the process.
There are no doubt cases in which aliens have been subjected to abuse by their American-born spouses. VAWA should protect those victims — but should also give the accused the opportunity of an evidentiary hearing and not simply rely on the word of the accuser. Such changes could easily be added if lawmakers operated from a perspective of justice and not partisan political agendas.
We have seen the great lengths some foreigners will go to in order to claim asylum in the United States — posing as the parents or guardians of non-related children and putting their children in the care of drug and sex traffickers.
By comparison, immigration fraud through marriage has received far less attention. Yet is a gap in our immigration laws that must be closed immediately.
Jill Greenwald is a communications associate at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.
Also published at: Jill Greenwald, Exposed! Immigration Fraud through Marriage as Part of ‘Violence Against Women Act’, LifeZette, May 6, 2019.