Did you know the United States allows child brides – with some restrictions that are very loosely defined, and at the discretion of judges? You may be surprised to know age limits can be as low as 13, which makes the United States a parallel to poor countries – almost, where child brides are the ‘norm’. The latest stats, based on state marriage licenses show 200,000 children (mostly girls) between 2000 and 2015, were married to adults. Pregnancy is the guiding factor to lowering age limits.
Here’s some more shocking stats! Twenty-five states do not set a minimum age, 8 states set the age at 16, Alaska and North Carolina permit marriage at 14, and New Hampshire sets the minimum at 13 for girls and 14 for boys with only a quick judicial oversight! Does this not deserve the full attention from lawmakers to correct loopholes?
So, what has this to do with US immigration? Ambiguities in US immigration law lures and promotes child brides – marriage, that’s how. Entry into the United States is perpetrated mostly by older men; sometimes the age difference can be great: a 15 year-old girl to a 49-year-old man. Here’s how it goes: If the countries they come from allow child marriages, and the petitioner’s state is lax on age laws, the person gains entry to the US = equaling another child bride tragedy. Got that one? Wrap your head around it for a moment.
But it doesn’t stop there. Some US families (with underage daughters), who have dual citizenship, purposely arrange for the appointed ‘spouse’ to come to the US; whereby, automatically gaining citizenship. The daughter has been used in both an immigration ploy and unwittingly, has become a child bride. It’s a weird circular loop of laws; however, the USCIC is implementing a flagging system for birth date verification. Better late than never! The lure of US Citizenship comes in many forms. Naila Amin, who has dual citizenship and was a child bride states, “My passport ruined my life.”
To end on a better note, New York, Texas, and Virginia have passed legislation setting the ‘age floor’ at 17 with a judge’s permission to prevent coercion of a minor. Hooray for these states!
For more insight check out: Marriage with Children…Literally!
By Sharla Esparza