Looking deeper: Marriage, immigration and the American citizen

Marriage fraud 'not a victimless crime'

HOUSTON – Marriage to an American citizen is one of the largest categories in which an immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident of the United States, according to data from the federal government.

In 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a nationwide campaign to educate citizens on the dangers of marriage fraud. However, several people have come forward to claim a specific area of marriage fraud is not getting nearly enough scrutiny by the federal government.

“He was romantic and charming,” said Elena Maria Lopez, of the man she married from the Netherlands. “(I) met him through a friend while I was finishing up college and fell in love.”

Lopez's marriage ended in divorce, but she said what unfolded was far more than just a relationship that fell apart. Lopez said she is a victim of so-called one-sided, or single-scheme, marriage fraud.

“It's not a victimless crime and it's not just a simple marriage (followed by) divorce," Lopez said. "I've made life decisions based on this being a real marriage."
ICE lists one of the types of marriage fraud as being, “A foreign national defrauds a U.S. citizen who believes the marriage is legitimate.”

Brochure: Marriage fraud is a federal crime (view PDF)
Hear Lopez explain the commitment required of a U.S. citizen who is sponsoring a foreign national into the country through marriage.