December 11, 2023

Immigration Marriage

Feel Good With Immigration

A Small Step Forward on the Marriage/Immigration Fraud Front

For years my colleagues and I have been writing about how some conniving aliens marry lonely Americans, not for love but for a green card, then abandon and sue the citizens for financial support.

Often the aliens are younger and more marriageable than the citizen (or sometimes green-card-holding) spouse. Routinely, the government does nothing except to issue a green card to the alien, as we have reported again and again.

Today we have an account of how one such victim stirred up a justifiable fuss and persuaded Homeland Security to deny the alien husband an immigration benefit.

That benefit? Naturalization. Despite years in the field and countless despairing letters from abandoned citizens, I have never encountered such an action; that’s the little bit of good news in an otherwise all-too-familiar and dismal account of marriage-related immigration fraud.

The Victim. In this case, the American is Cecilia Shahzad (née Chand, a Hindi last name), who arrived here as an immigrant in 2000. She was born to an Indian family in Fiji, where the big Indian minority is both reasonably prosperous and discriminated against by the Fijians. She subsequently had a marriage that ended in divorce with a Mr. Kumar, another Fijian Indian. She became a citizen. In 2015, she married, in Pakistan, Fnu Shahzad, a citizen of that nation. She continues to use Shahzad as her last name, which I find surprising.

The Alien. Mr. Shahzad was living in Pakistan when a relative of his (who was in on the long-term plot, according to Ms. Shahzad) introduced the two to each other. Both spoke Urdu, a language used in both Pakistan and India. She petitioned for him to become a temporary green card holder, and then two years later, a permanent one. They are now separated and in divorce proceedings, with the male seeking alimony; both live in Sacramento.

The Missed Signals. Ms. Shahzad now notes that she missed the importance, at the time of the marriage, of these multiple differences between the two, discrepancies that often predict an ill-fated alien-citizen marriage. This is how it played out over six variables:

Factor She He
Age at Marriage Mid-40s 21
Ethnicity Indian Pakistani
Education Ph.D. High school grad
Work Educator, California
prison system
Restaurant worker
Religion Christian Muslim
U.S. Migration Status U.S. citizen who can
marry anyone in the
An alien without any
chance to come to the
U.S. except through marriage

A couple, both in love, could overcome two or maybe three of these differences, but all six?

In my view, the concept of a guy of 21 marrying a woman twice his age suggests something odd and should raise suspicions.

According to Ms. Shahzad, her spouse was reasonably good to her until she filed papers to convert his initial (temporary) green card to a permanent one, two years after the marriage. Shortly thereafter, he abandoned her, but not before filing for naturalization. Perhaps the denial of naturalization will make a useful impact on the divorce case; it certainly should.

Ms. Shahzad, unlike so many in her situation, wants to go public with her story to warn others of possible fraud. Her advice:

It’s important to take action at the earliest and cancel any paperwork filed if one becomes aware of a scam or fraud. It is difficult to get such scammers [deported] once they get their permanent green card.

[I] hope this helps and warns women and men to be more vigilant when one meets such people in our lives, especially when we are lonely and vulnerable — easy targets for scammers. Listen to friends/family when they tell us that these kinds of scammers only want a green card and your money. I failed to heed to the warnings and now am going through a nightmare with my divorce.

That there was both a naturalization filing and that she knew about it seems unusual. In some to many of these abusive marriage cases, the alien files for naturalization, but does so out of sight of the ex-spouse who cannot contest something that they don’t know about. In other cases, there is no filing at all.

I might add that naturalization matters are handled by a totally different part of USCIS than the issuance of green cards. Whereas the green card adjudicators seem to not want to take on difficult decisions about immigration-related marriage fraud, those working on citizenship matters may have a different, and more commendable, view of the same situation.

All of this suggests that denying citizenship is rather unusual and cannot be seen as a terribly useful precedent. By the time that an exploitative alien spouse has filed for naturalization, the harm to the system and the citizen has been done.

There are, however, some interesting alternative ways to handle the alien-citizen marriage process that can be drawn from the instant case, a subject that will be covered in a subsequent post.