Tell Congress to Stop the Trafficking of Child Brides!

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Natalie Rivera
Natalie Rivera signed this petition

Child marriage is alive and rampant in the U.S. and a significant driver is an immigration visa loophole: There is technically no minimum age requirement to sponsor a spousal or fiancé(e) visa. A child can effectively be used as a pawn to secure a green card for her spouse.

In January this year, due to our request for information regarding this gap in immigration law, the Senate Committee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs reported the disturbing numbers: from 2007 to 2017, the U.S. government approved 8,686 spousal/fiancé(e) visa applications with partners involving children.

This means that a loophole in federal immigration law is responsible for enabling thousands of child marriages in the U.S.

Child marriage is child abuse. Sign our petition and demand that Congressional leaders immediately close the immigration visa loophole and protect children in the U.S.   

The hypocrisy is glaring. The U.S. government condemns child marriage worldwide and provides funding for programs that prevent this child abuse overseas. The State Department calls child marriage a form of “gender-based violence,” and the United States Agency for International Development calls it “a human rights abuse.”

Yet the federal government has done little to nothing to protect children from this abuse on our very own soil – it is perfectly legal for a child U.S. citizen to sponsor an immigration visa for a foreign-born spouse or fiancé(e), or for a U.S. citizen, regardless of age, to sponsor a child to come to the U.S. for the purpose of marriage.

The details of the Senate Committee report are shocking:

  • 149 of the visas involved children with partners aged 40 and above;
  • A 71-year-old U.S. citizen successfully petitioned for a visa for a 17-year-old;
  • A 14-year-old U.S. citizen successfully petitioned for a visa for a 48-year-old;
  • Young girls face the brunt of heinous injustice: 95% of the approved petitions involved female children.

The time to close this outrageous gap in federal law is now!

This federal loophole in the U.S. immigration system has enabled marriages for children as young as 14. In a situation of forced marriage, a family may take advantage of this gap by promising U.S. citizenship to a foreign-born individual in exchange for a marital agreement with an American child. Similarly, a minor may also be brought to the U.S. against her will to the U.S. to be married.

Child marriage is child abuse. It severely jeopardizes girls’ health and robs them of education and economic opportunity. Moreover, marriages involving a minor increase the risk of domestic violence and can have a destructive impact on overall health.

It is clear what must happen going forward. Congress must reform the Immigration and Nationality Act to prevent child marriages. We must speak up now and urge legislators to act swiftly and waste no time in passing this legislation.

Sign our petition today and make it clear to our elected representatives that child marriage will NOT be tolerated in the U.S. We are advocating a brightline minimum age of eighteen years old for marriage in our visa system. Zero-tolerance of child marriage is the only meaningful solution.

Let your voices be heard and send a message to those children at risk of forced and child marriage that you will stand up for their life, their safety, and their future. And do it now.

With collective effort, we can and will make a life-saving difference for the thousands of children left without a voice in the face of this abuse.  

AHA Foundation