By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
August 21, 2023
Over the years I have come to take notice that our nation’s inaccessible legal immigration system, with its limited offerings, is one of the main incubators of the green card marriage fraud business and our fake immigration document market overall. It is also one of the primary causes of our nation’s expanded undocumented population, now in the many millions and over the course of many decades. In other words, if given a chance to immigrate legally and within a reasonable period of time, the foreign nationals breaking our immigration laws to live and work here as productive members of our society, would do so it in a heartbeat.
In the meantime, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals entering into marriage for the sole purpose of conferring a green card to the foreign national are subject to criminal prosecution. Plain and simple, it is illegal to file immigration paperwork based on a such a marriage and doing so, can mean a felony conviction and jail time for both the U.S. citizen and foreign national participant, as well as deportation for the foreign national. In a federal court in New Jersey last week, a mother-son team of U.S. citizens pled guilty and are now await sentencing for arranging such sham marriages and enriching themselves greatly along the way. See USA v. Torres et al., case number 2:21-cr-00925, in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
According to court records, during a five year period, spanning 2016 to 2021, Newark residents Andrea Torres, 56, and son Philip Torres, 27, collected fees of $8,000.00 or more from foreign national customers looking to legalize their status by way of arranged marriages. The Torres’ in turn recruited and paid U.S. citizens to enter into marriages with their customers and file documentation with U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services to facilitate employment authorization and green card issuance. Philip Torres even acted as the officiator at these arranged weddings.
Per court records, the scheme concocted by the Torres’ was elaborate and designed to give U.S. immigration officials the impression that the marriages at issue were bona fide. The Torres team advised their customers on a myriad of marriage fraud “best practices” including how to present evidence to give the appearance that the sham couple resided together. The guidance ranged from instructions for opening joint bank accounts to setting up and photographing regular meetings between the sham couple, on different occasions and in different clothing. Government investigators were able to uncover the scheme by way of one or more of the Torres customers cooperating with law enforcement, presumably after irregularities and patterns of misrepresentation in their own cases became obvious.
The defendants in this case face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 or more in fines. The foreign national users of the Torres sham marriage enterprise are likely not facing criminal penalties, but instead have a dim U.S. immigration future ahead of them.
Sadly, the foreign nationals I have met over the decades who have entered questionable marriages, are, with few exceptions, otherwise honest people just trying to obtain documentation to continue working and living law abiding lives in the U.S. The lies a foreign national may engage in when it comes to sham marriages and fraudulent immigration filings are of course not excusable. Indeed, such acts constitute criminal activity and are wrong. But they are explainable in context. Without question, the frequency of green card marriage fraud, along with the size of our nation’s undocumented population, would be hugely reduced if our immigration system offered more options for hard working and otherwise law abiding folks. In the meantime, marriage fraudsters for hire like the Torres family will continue to pop up, desperate employers will continue seek workers for unfilled positions, and Congress will likely continue to take no decisive action on the politically delicate and explosive topic of immigration reform.
PUBLISHED August 21, 2023 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2023, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois