APNewsBreak: US approved thousands of child bride requests

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US State Department Approved Thousands of Child Bride Requests - Report

The United States' immigration system has been approving thousands of male migrants' requests to bring their underage brides or fiancees - some in their early teens with men over 40 - with them, raising concerns that the US helped facilitate forced marriages. If granted, they must be approved by the State Department.

In almost all the cases, the girls were the younger person in the relationship.

Data reviewed by AP was first obtained in 2017 by the Senate Homeland Security Committee at the initiative of US Sen.

Such was the case with Naila Amin, a dual citizen of Pakistan and the USA, whose parents arranged for her engagement to a Pakistani man in his 20s when she was just 8 years old.

The approvals were legal, as applicants take advantage of the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not limit the age of spouses and the fact that many states allow for minors to be married under certain circumstances.

In Amin's case, the petition ultimately fell through after she ran away from her New York City home, instead opting for an arduous life that saw her in and out of foster care and group homes before being able to get back on track.

"I know my potential could have been so much more", she said. In 149 cases, the adults were older than 40, and in 28 cases, they were over 50, the committee discovered. "They don't think?" she questioned.

In January 2018, KNOX News profiled the case of a young woman who was 13 years old when her parents held a religious ceremony to bless her marriage to man in his mid-20s. She determined that almost 4,000 minors, mostly girls, were married in the state from 1995 to 2012, including 178 who were under 15.

"This is a problem both domestically and in terms of immigration", Reiss said. Reiss, who was forced into a marriage by her Orthodox Jewish family at 19, says child marriage granted through parental consent is a regular occurrence within the faith.

"They are subjected to a lifetime of domestic servitude and rape", she said. And the government is not only complicit; they're stamping this and saying: "Go ahead", Reiss added.

The data was requested in 2017 by Johnson and then-Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, the committee's top Democrat.

In a statement to the publication, officials with the USCIS did not expand on the State Department's process; however, they did indicate that roughly 2.6 percent of claims are rejected. And a USA adult can petition for a visa for a minor spouse or fiancée living overseas.

Lawmakers on the Senate homeland security and governmental reform committee are now calling for reforms to prevent people from getting immigration benefits that facilitate child marriages.

USCIS created a flagging system when a minor spouse or fiance is detected. After the initial flag, it is sent to a special unit that verifies the age and relationship are correct before the petition is accepted. Countries making the most petitions to admit minor spouses to the USA included Mexico, Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and Yemen.

US immigration authorities approved 5,556 requests from older men to bring child or adolescent wives to the USA, and approved 2,926 requests from young girls to bring their older husbands to the USA between the budget years of 2007 and 2017.

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