Senate Report: U.S. Approved Thousands of Child Marriages

American immigration authorities approved thousands of requests to bring in child brides in the past decade, the majority involving significant age gaps between partners.

That’s according to a new report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, which argues that loopholes in federal immigration laws enable, or even incentivize child marriages by granting spouses access to U.S. visas.

According to the study released earlier this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved 8,686 petitions in the past decade or so for spousal or fiancé entry involving juveniles.

There were more than 5,000 examples of adults petitioning on behalf of minors and nearly 3,000 in which minors sought to bring in older spouses or fiancés, per the data, which was requested in 2017 by the Senate subcommittee. “Our immigration system may unintentionally shield the abuse of women and children,” the senators said in their letter requesting the data.

Most of the requests came from Mexico, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and Yemen. At least two cases in the report involved a girl as young as 13. In one instance, a 49-year-old man applied for a visa for a 15-year-old girl; in another case, a 71-year-old man sought to bring a 17-year-old wife to the U.S.

Underage-spouse petitions aren’t illegal. Under federal law, there’s no age requirement: children and adults who are U.S. citizens can request visas for spouses living abroad. The Immigration and Nationality Act evaluates spouse and fiancé petitions by checking the legality of the union in their home country and then deciding whether the marriage would be legal in the state the petitioning sponsor calls home.

Very few states outlaw child marriage. Delaware and New Jersey became the first two to ban the practice. All other states allow minors to marry if they meet certain conditions, such as parental consent or court approval.

In California, a Los Altos high school student named Aliesa Bahri proposed banning the practice altogether, pitching the idea in 2017 to state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo). The legislation ultimately got watered down after backlash from child advocacy groups arguing that legitimate reasons exist for minors to tie the knot.

Before leaving office, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Hill’s bill into law. California already allowed minors to marry with the blessing of a judge and guardian. Now, as of Jan. 1, partners and the parents of minors will also have to meet separately with court officials who can determine whether there’s any coercion or abuse.

Underage marriages had already been on the decline in Santa Clara County, where the courts considered 116 petitions since 2007. Only one was submitted in the past year, according records supplied by the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Of those, 106 involved female minors ranging in age from 14 to 17. Nineteen involved male minors aged 16 to 17. Five included female adults between the ages of 18 and 20. Some 92 cases involved adult men between the ages of 18 and 42. In just 14 cases both of the partners were underage.

The youngest petitioner in the past 12 years was a 14-year-old girl. The youngest approved petitions involved a 15-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man.

Only two cases prompted probes from Child Protection Services, and that’s because they involved a pregnant underage girl asking to marry an adult man. The biggest age gaps involved female minors: a 17-year-old girl petitioning to marry a 33-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl requesting marriage to a 28-year-old man, which was denied.

It’s unclear, however, how many additional underage unions would register in this county based on the data from the USCIS, as Silicon Valley is one of the most immigrant-rich regions in the nation.

As a result of the Senate report findings, lawmakers plan to explore ways to reform the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to align with USCIS policy that deems underage marriages potential human rights abuses.

“If we are truly serious about upholding stated U.S. policy to prevent child marriages and protect children from potential abuse and harm,” the Senate subcommittee report concludes, “Congress must reform the INA to prevent individuals from obtaining immigration benefits that facilitate child marriages.”

In the meantime, the USCIS has rolled out a flagging system to identify cases involving a minor, which triggers additional layers of verification.

Source: USCIS

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > Senate Report: U.S. Approved Thousands of Child Marriages

    Kind of a meaningless story in an era where progressive social policy has all but erased the concept of “marriage”.

    Google no longer knows what “family” means.

    Oh, and haven’t you heard, “gender” is obsolete:

    • > all but erased the concept of “marriage”
      Thank goodness. It’s about time. Surprises me that such an ancient, obsolete social construct is still alive and well to this day. And making this religious relic intertwined in our legal system makes it even more preposterous. Yes, erase the concept marriage, and especially underage marriage, and we won’t need to worry about “child brides”. Such a practice will be called what it actually is: child sex trafficking.

      • In this I agree. In the scope of government, marriage should transition into a contractual setup, something like a civil union but without the gender qualifications. Ers can union with Zers, hes can union with shes, hims can union with hims, furries can union with unicorns, as it would be illegal for the government to discriminate. And courts/governments would extend all the current benefits/support that currently exist for marriage.

        This would leave marriage in the scope of the social construction that is religion. And since the BoR secures freedom of religion, the devout can define marriage however they see fit given those participating were free and fit to consent and did so. They also can not coerce non-members to comply.

        But that is not how this is going down…

  2. I can’t believe that we live in a country that has thousands of documented child marriages — with some girls as young as 9 or 10 years old. A google search shows also that in the U.S. child marriage is still legal in 48 states ?

  3. I can’t believe I am reading an article in thee “P”rogressive Propaganda Machine spouting such Islamophobia and cultural-chauvinism. The “D”evout are sharpening the pitchforks and oiling the torches for Ms. Wadsworth as we speak, preparing the feast of thier own.

    Or perhaps the Left is waking up to the fact not all cultures are created equal and moral relativism has its limits, but I doubt it.

    Incoming Metro apology in T minus 24 hours.

    • I don’t see any pitchforks or torches for Ms Wadsworth. Let’s tone down the rhetoric. My goodness. Further, I’m not sure I understand the statement about not all cultures are created equal. More empty rhetoric.

      • 14% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in West and Central Africa.
        12% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in Subsaharan Africa.
        9% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in Eastern and Southern Africa
        8% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in South Asia

        for a total of about 12M a year.

        You need me to do your homework on modern slavery in Africa and Asia? $400 a slave in open air trade in Libya (thanks Hillary!)? How about sex-selective abortions? Death sentences under Sharia Law for homosexuals? How about rape victims getting 90 lashes in Saudi Arabia? Polygamy in 26 countries in Africa?

        Like I said, not all cultures are created equally, but pointing that out is racist. Multi-ethnicity is good, ‘e pluribus unum’ is good, but multi-culturalism and resistence to assmilation into American culture is not. If an immigrant can get a visa to the US, great, but they can leave this cultural stuff back at home, thanks!

        • > 4% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in West and Central Africa.
          12% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in Subsaharan Africa.
          9% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in Eastern and Southern Africa
          8% of all girls are married off before they are 15 in South Asia

          for a total of about 12M a year.

          AND, when their “caravan” rushes our southern border, touches a toe on Americans soil, and chants (in unison) “ASYLUM”, those “marriages” are valid in the United States of America.


          • Caravans from Africa and South Asia? What are you even talking about?!?

            In any event, that’s not even what the article was originally talking about. There goes Bubbles, off the rails again.

  4. Oh gosh Jenifer if we can’t keep getting under age mail order brides from outside the country or smuggle them across the border who will do the dishes for our older wives?

    Build The Wall! Cut the refugee excuse immigration.

  5. > Kind of a meaningless story in an era where progressive social policy has all but erased the concept of “marriage”.


    Here’s your next big journalistic exploration, all teed up and ready for you to hit it out of the ball park.

    What does “marriage” mean to “progressives”?
    What does “marriage” mean to Bill and Hillary Clinton?
    What does “marriage” mean to Democrat mega-donor Harvey Weinstein?
    What does “marriage” mean to Jeff Bezos?
    What does “marriage” mean to Dominic Cortese?
    What does “marriage” mean to Hollywood “role models”?
    What does “marriage” mean to Michele Dauber?
    What does “marriage” mean to Christine Baseley Ford?
    What does “marriage” mean to Black America?
    What does “marriage” mean to Muslims?
    What does “marriage” mean to Woody Allen?
    What does “marriage” mean to transgenders?
    What does “marriage” mean to children?
    Is “marriage” recreation or procreation?
    Is “marriage” necessary for procreation?
    Is “marriage” necessary for recreation?
    Is “marriage” necessary?
    Is “marriage” oppressive for women?
    Is “marriage” oppressive for men?
    Is “marriage” oppressive?
    Should “marriage” be abolished?
    Should “gay marriage be abolished?
    Is “gay marriage” necessary?
    Does “gay marriage” make any difference?
    Does “marriage” make any difference to anything in San Francisco?
    What is the point of “marriage” in the twenty-first century?

    Lots to chew on Jennifer. You might need an extra set of teeth.

  6. Jennifer does a great service by pointing out yet another example of the dysfunctionality of our immigration system.
    President Trump gets it and is trying to do something about it. Unfortunately the opposition politicians are willing to keep the government shut down in order to maintain the status quo.

  7. Wake up people! Are you really shocked? Remember the four days in jail for child Pornography? Persky’s ruling…local police officers involved in sexual scandals with minors…Oakland, Gilroy Police, leniency for sexual offenders, night clubs with minors as strippers…Yes, all of this in United States, Bay Area, San Jose…and San Jose Bubble stating the story is meaningless. To conclude, a president who brags about grabbing women by their pussi…what is this culture about?

    • > Pornography? Persky’s ruling…local police officers involved in sexual scandals with minors…Oakland, Gilroy Police, leniency for sexual offenders, night clubs with minors as strippers…


      Ever heard of verbs? It’s impossible to tell if you are approving of something or deploring something without using verbs.

      Or, maybe using pictures might help.

      You might use a picture of an upward pointing arrow to convey that you approve of something. And similarly, you could use a picture of a downward pointing arrow to communicate that you DISAPPROVE of something.

      Unfortunately, you may have to use actual verbs and grammar and punctuation to explain WHY you approve or disapprove.

  8. Sorry, I forgot about your lack of neuronal potential and need for visual aid…People do not be Shocked! The perverted are locals, Persky, Gilroy and Oakland police sexual misconduct with minors, current US president who brags about grabbing women by their pussies and nothing happening to males if famous…local males and judges minimizing sexual misconduct of other males…

    • Bubble is right FEXXNIST we can’t tell if your part of the problem or the problem. Seems like our politicians would like to participate in these perversions right up till the time the News finds their names “Fit to Print”.

  9. I am not to blame for you and bubble being late when God was disdributing neurons. I am not to blame the adaptation theory is out of reach of your neuronal potential.

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