- MassLive.com via the US Border Security Council.
This story emphasizes that this crime is widespread but rarely discovered, and cites a study explaining why, which estimates that there are $60,000 immigration-fraud marriages per year. It also points out several things that make immigration-fraud marriages possible, or easier:
- Unilateral no-fault divorce laws, so that fraudsters can be sure they won't be stuck with their marriages long-term.
- Marriage licenses with no waiting periods and no need to show an I.D.
- CIS offices unable or unwilling to investigate marriage fraud, even when alerted by court clerks.
... Knoller pleaded guilty to arranging 32 fraudulent marriages, though the actual number was likely much higher. Originally scheduled for sentencing in October, her hearing is now set for Jan. 19.
Federal investigators found evidence in a raid on Knoller’s Holyoke home that the number might be more than twice that. In Brattleboro alone, Cappy reported her suspicions about many more marriages. And, federal agents found evidence she had more in the planning stages: Their search turned up 61 gold wedding bands.
Knoller’s was a full-service enterprise. After the illegals obtained legal status, she helped facilitate divorces for many.
An investigation by the Initiative for Investigative Reporting at Northeastern University in Boston found evidence that the Knoller case may be a rare exception, one of the few such scams actually uncovered and prosecuted.
Among the findings:
- U.S. government efforts to monitor such marriages are ineffectual, according to government auditors. Each year, about 200,000 immigrants who are in this country illegally or on a temporary basis obtain Green Cards by marrying American citizens. By some estimates, up to 60,000 of those marriages are fraudulent;
- American citizens who are paid to make the scams possible rarely face any sanctions. In the Knoller case, not one of the 32 American spouses was prosecuted, while all of the illegals now face deportation;
- Brattleboro as a “destination wedding” site may have been by design. Vermont’s laws for obtaining a marriage license are the most lax in New England. Town clerks are not required to ask for identification, and seldom do, while Massachusetts and every other state bordering Vermont requires proof of identity;
- Cappy, the town clerk, notified federal authorities numerous times about the suspicious couples and their wedding planner. Yet it took three years for federal agents to bring a halt to Knoller’s wedding bonanza.
Independent auditors concluded the program is so hobbled by a lack of resources and firm standards that the federal government is left ill-equipped to identify fraudulent marriages. Yet every year, about 200,000 immigrants who are in the United States illegally or on a temporary basis, gain their Green Cards by marrying American citizens.
Principal among the system’s inequities is the double standard when fraud is discovered.
As illustrated in the Knoller case, the illegal immigrants who paid $12,000 for having the fake marriages arranged are facing deportation. Although federal law allows for prosecution of American citizens for engaging in fraudulent marriages aimed at evading U.S. immigration laws, none of the Knoller-arranged spouses face any legal consequences.
Article originally by the Initiative for Investigative Reporting in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University in Boston. For more information see their other article, "Prosecution rare in wedding scams"