Amid the battle over border-wall funding, the federal government has approved “spouse” or “fiancé” visas for children as young as 13 years old.
That’s even as the United States combats “child marriage” in other countries, according to the Washington watchdog Judicial Watch.
The government in recent years, has approved “thousands of petitions filed by Americans seeking spouse or fiancé visas for children born abroad.”
Judicial Watch said that in the last decade more than 8,500 petitions for spousal entry into the U.S. involved minors, according to government figures included in a Senate Homeland Security report released this month.
“In an overwhelming number of the cases girls were the younger party and in some there were ‘significant age differences,’ Senate investigators found. Two were only 13 years old, 38 were 14 years old, 269 were 15 years old, and 1,768 were 16. The remaining 6,609 were 17 years old.”
Among the “disturbing” facts, Judicial Watch said, is the agency’s approval of a 71-year-old American citizen’s visa request for a 17-year-old spouse from Guatemala.
In another, the agency granted a 14-year-old U.S. citizen’s petition for a 48-year-old spouse from Jamaica.
USCIS also rubber-stamped 149 applications involving a minor with an adult spouse or fiancé over the age of 40, Judicial Watch said.
“Nearly 5,000 minors in the United States on spousal or fiancé visas received green cards to become lawful permanent residents, federal figures show.”
Border security funding is at the center of the current partial government shutdown. President Trump has asked Congress for $5.7 billion, but Democrats have refused to negotiate.
The USCIS can approve the spousal and fiance visas for minors without any parental or judicial consent.
The applications then are forwarded to the State Department, where almost all are approved, JW said.
The government report said, “Senate investigators spoke with a ‘child marriage victim’ who was forced to marry her older cousin during a family vacation to Pakistan.”
Her spousal immigration application was approved when she was just 13 years old. Throughout the forced marriage, she suffered physical and sexual abuse, Judicial Watch said.
Judicial Watch pointed out the irony that the U.S. has launched campaigns in other countries against child marriages.
“As part of the U.S. campaign to reduce child marriage abroad, Congress passed a measure in 2013 requiring the secretary of state to establish and implement a multiyear strategy to ‘prevent child marriages’ and ‘to promote the empowerment of girls at risk of child marriage in developing countries,'” Judicial Watch said.
The government describes the issue as a human-rights abuse.
“Why would the same agency approve thousands of visas for children – mostly girls – to enter forced marriages in the U.S.?” Judicial Watch asked.