The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has released a report blaming USCIS, for allegedly allowing immigrants to exploit a "loophole" in the US immigration laws permitting the approval of green card petitions involving marriages, in some cases, to children as young as 14. The full report, entitled:

How the U.S. Immigration System Encourages Child Marriages

isavailable through the website of The Ayaan Hirsi Ali (AHA) Foundation, which was instrumental in pursuing this issue. See: "AHA Foundation was first to expose loophole that enables child marriage in the U.S."

The Senate report states that during the ten year period from 2007 to 2017, 8,686 green card petitions based on child marriages (almost always involving young girls),, were approved by USCIS.
However, according to the same report, of these marriages, 6,609 involved 17-year old spouses, and another 1,768 involved 16 year old ones.

This leaves exactly 309 children under 16 over a 10 year period whose marriage petitions were approved, an average of 31 per year. Of these, exactly twopetitions involving 13 year old children were approved before ultimately being cancelled, and 38 petitions, or an average of 4 per year, involving 14-year old children were approved.

Therefore the overwhelming majority of the approved petitions involved 16 and 17 year old girls. No one disputes that child marriage is a serious human rights violation and a major problem in many countries around the world.

But is it a major US immigration problem? Is America's society or way of life under attack from a few hundred 16 or 17 year old gilds who may marry foreign citizens and petition for them each year? Not even Donald Trump, who has accused brown immigrants of being responsible for almost every dereliction known to humanity, has not (yet) mentioned this one.

Is this really America's biggest worry? One very much doubts that the 800,000 federal employees and their families who were reduced to waiting on soup kitchen lines and relying on the supposed good will of grocery stores, landlords and mortgage companies to survive during Trump's Wall shutdown, and may soon have to face another one, would agree.

The above is not intended to minimize the evil of child marriage. It is a shocking abuse, especially when 13, 14 or 15 -year old children are the victims. But is it primarily an immigration problem? Or is it a homegrown, American as apple pie problem?

Asthe SenateCommittee report points out, USCIS would not have been able to approve the child marriage green card petitions unless child marriages were legal in the US. The report also points out that most states in America have no age minimum requirement for entering into a valid marriage. Until recently, none of them did.

And the total incidence of child marriage in America dwarfs the number of such marriages that are being used for immigration purposes.

A 2017 research report by the Tahirih Justice Center reveals that between 2000 and 2015, well over 200,000 children under the age of 18 were married in America. See: Why Are There Still So Many Child Brides in America?

The above article explains:

"The children involved are predominantly from rural areas in the south and west...many tend to come from poor, less educated and conservative religious backgrounds(mostly Protestant and fundamentalist Mormon.)"

And there can be little doubt that the reason that child marriages are still legal in so many states is due in large part to pressure from evangelical Christian and other traditional religious groups.See: Relevant Magazine:

Why are Christian 'Family' Groups Trying to Block a Child Marriage Law?

See also, (March 11, 2018)

Banning child marriage in America: An uphill fight against evangelical pressure

This article warns:

"Child marriage is a real problem in the United States, one that isn't talked about much. Like human trafficking, we assume that child marriage is something that happens in other countries, countries with antiquated world views and gender norms. But it happens here all the time - at least 9,247 minors were married in the United States in the year 2010 alone...

Between 2000 and 2015, 86 percent of the reported 207,468 child marriages that took place in the United States were between minors and adults."

The same article then describes the opposition from conservative religious groups that was blocking the passage of a law banning child marriage in one state - Kentucky. Other reports indicate that such opposition exists in other states as well, including Tennessee and even New Jersey, where former governor Chris Christie reportedly refused to sign such a bill because of religious group pressure. (New Jersey now has a law banning this practice.)

Definitely, child marriage is a great evil - a serious human rights violation, as has been pointed out elsewhere. But it is an American problem. America needs to pass state (and, arguably federal) laws eliminating this odious practice.

Scapegoating a small handful of immigrants - a few hundred each year - is not the answer

Roger Algase

Attorney at Law