Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen

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Via Nezua comes word of a proposed reality TV game show show called "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" that "aims to create televised matrimony between legal citizens and immigrants who have temporary visas."

The show's backers at Morusa Media hope to make a sort of love match between reality TV and a national obsession with immigration. But the producers make no promise that a marriage will occur or lead to U.S. citizenship.

That's partly because any marriage that resulted from a game show with marriage to a U.S. citizen as the prize would lead to a strong presumption that the marriage was entered into for the sole purpose of circumventing the country's immigration laws--hence, no green card.  

From the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Adjudicator's Field Manual, Section 21.3(a)(2)(H):

A sham marriage has been defined by the BIA as a marriage which may comply with all the formal requirements of the law but which the parties entered into with no intent, or "good faith", to live together and which is designed solely to circumvent the immigrations [sic] laws. Sham marriages are not recognized for immigration purposes. See Matter of Patel , 19 I&N Dec. 774 (BIA 1988).

The lucky couple would still have to go through the marriage interview process and convince an immigration officer that though they met through a game show called "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen," their marriage was still one entered into in good faith and therefore deserving of the benefits that come to legitimate spouses of U.S. citizens.  An enterprising immigration officer could even take a look at episodes of the show and take any statements made by a winning contestant during the course of the show into consideration in making her decision.  Even if the couple could provide extensive documentary evidence that they were living together as a married couple--e.g., joint bank account statements, joint tax returns and utility bills, and affidavits from friends and family members--the suspicion of marriage fraud might be too great to overcome.  Once charged with marriage fraud, the intending immigrant might be put into removal proceedings and deported with prejudice to future applications, ending up worse off than if she had never become a contestant on the show. 

However, contra the movie Green Card, which I saw again tonight for the first time since the early '90s, the immigration officers are not likely to make a house visit to review the marriage in its domestic setting as part of their investigation.  Nor will they escort deportees through the streets of New York City on their way to JFK, stopping by to say goodbye to friends or family, as the officer in Green Card (who has already been inexplicably replaced in my memory by the superficially similar Tobias F√ľnke from Arrested Development) did with Gerard Depardieu.  Immigration officers don't come to you and sit politely in your waiting room--you sit politely in government waiting rooms for a few hours, then an officer grills you for 15 minutes and makes a decision.  An approval means a green card; failure at the first interview likely means a second, more intensive interview, possibly followed by removal proceedings in front of an Immigration Judge. 

Adam at Immigration Equality's blog points out that, no matter how genuine or longstanding the relationship of an LGBT couple, they still cannot avail themselves of the immigration benefits of marriage that come to straight couples.

From the Immigration Equality website:

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, even same sex couples which have been legally married in Massachusetts, Canada, the Netherlands, or Belgium, will not be able to immigrate based on their marriage. Every day we hear from desperate couples, forced to choose between the partner they love and the country they love, which is why we are fighting to change the immigration law and end this discrimination.

(See the Adj. Field Manual, Section 21.3(a)(2)(I).)

I think few Americans would challenge the right of the spouse of a U.S. citizen to immigrate to this country.  It is a rare element of the immigration laws that I would guess commands a rough public consensus.  But the benefit as it exists under present immigration law is seriously flawed.  First, it wrongfully excludes gays and lesbians.  Second, the process puts an inordinate strain on bona fide applicants due to the often arbitrary and highly discretionary way candidates are screened for marriage fraud.  Even if a lucky contestant wins "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" and ends up marrying a citizen, she might find herself at the beginning of her journey to become a legal resident rather than at its end.

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kyledeb said:


You're first post on Citizen Orange has me in awe, yave. You have the link to Nez (always good), It's grounded in actual immigration law (which we don't get enough of), and you hit on what I believe is one of the most important problems here, which is the fact that the entire LGBT population isn't even considered when it comes to this. Forget how difficult the process is in the first place, if you're LGBT there's little to no chance that you can unite with your partner in the U.S. Great post, yave. Can't wait for more.

What I'm trying to understand is how is this any different from mail order brides?
UCIS has no problems with men going to another country, interviewing women and bringing one back to be marry all in a matter of a week .

This seems like the contestants would be able to get to know each other though th entire taping of the season and then if they choose get married.

kyledeb said:

Great point DM,

The difference is that in your example U.S. citizens are taking advantage of the system, and in the gameshow above migrants would be taking advantage of the system.

I remember coming back from Honduras one time I overheard a man talking about his recent marriage. His wife had recently died and his servant offered to set him up with someone back home in Honduras. He went to Honduras for a few days, married her, and was on his way home to get the paperwork in order.

I also think it's ironic that U.S. citizens bring in thousands of adopted Guatemalan children while they separate children from their parents in the U.S. This is the ridiculous world we live in, in which underprivileged migrants are in need of emancipation.

yave begnet said:

I understand that USCIS and/or DOS have been scrutinizing "mail order bride" petitions more carefully than in the past, although I'm not familiar with what the changes are exactly. But I agree with Kyle's point: things are always easier for USCs.

This seems like the contestants would be able to get to know each other though th entire taping of the season and then if they choose get married.

That's true, and if they could convince USCIS that they were really in love and had entered into a good faith marriage, they could receive a green card. My point is that USCIS is very suspicious of marriage petitions and is vigilant in trying to root out marriage fraud. "Winning" marriage to a USC would likely inject a extra dose of skepticism into the adjudication of any resulting marriage petition.

For years there have been allegations of corruption in the adoption system in Guatemala. As I understand it, officials in charge of adoptions in Guatemala were suspected of bribing or coercing mothers to give up their kids for adoption, then getting kickbacks to process the papers. I think U.S. adoption agencies (and arguably adoptive parents in the U.S.) were happy to turn a blind eye to what was going on as long as the babies kept coming, but it may not be as easy now that Guatemala has ratified the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

kyledeb said:

You should update with this video yave from XP.

kyledeb said:

No worries, yave,

I'll hit up Guatemalan adoption again one of these days.

yave begnet said:

Per Kyle, check out XP's treatment of the show (see link above). This whole thing smells fishy to me now ... especially after seeing the video. Super low production values--looks like something you could shoot in your basement with a few buddies. Also the link at the end of the video leads to another link to an immigration law firm's website.

But whoever is pushing this thing is savvy--the media has jumped all over it. It seems like a promotion for something else--but what, I was thinking to myself. Then I remembered--in showbiz, you don't have to be selling anything of substance, it's the act of promotion that matters. These producers may simply be selling themselves. If so, they got into the national press and into the right rolodexes and may be able to sell something to somebody. Whether it is this show or not doesn't really matter in the end.

Mary said:

I think people need to loosen up over the immigration issue. Obviously, these producers know how to market their show because we're all discussing it. Let's focus more on our own lives.

yave begnet said:

For some, "our own lives" involve immigrants; hence, the focus on "the immigration issue." For others, there's always Gawker or Perez Hilton with which to while away the hours. Come to think of it, "focusing on our own lives" would pretty much eviscerate a huge swathe of the blogosphere.

Although I will say that the "lighten up" perspective seems to be shared by the majority of Americans--immigration ranked 5th or 6th on the list of issues most important to respondents to yesterday's Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

And since I'm never short of opinions, I'll just add that asking a blogger to loosen up is asking a lot; asking a lawyer-blogger to loosen up is like asking a toddler to explain quantum mechanics or Amy Winehouse to endure 24 hours of sobriety.

kyledeb said:


Well put yave. That's hilarious. It does worry me that people in the U.S. don't seem to care that there are millions of people living in their country in fear.

kyledeb said:

Ay pobre Latina Lista,

anti-migrant trolls have taken over her blog! The hope is that we'e strong enough that the same doesn't happen to us someday. Hopefully we can push people towards the positive.

yave begnet said:

These trolls are persistent. I like how he thinks that intimating that someone he doesn't agree with doesn't support the Troops with sufficient fervor means he has won the argument. I fear this is how all his arguments end--with the accusation of "Troop-hater!"--whatever the initial topic once was.

The sad thing is this tactic has so often been effective due to the pervasive, unthinking approach to national identity that dominates the political discourse in the U.S. It's the most common, least-examined form of identity politics out there--and usually the conserv-a-sphere doesn't have good things to say about identity politics.

kyledeb said:

I just realized the profundity of your comments. The fact that this nationalistic identity is the least-examined part of identity politics.

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on December 3, 2007 12:23 AM.

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