The U.S. approved more than 5,000 requests by men to bring child or adolescent brides into the country over the past decade, enabling forced child marriages.
U.S. immigration authorities approved 5,556 requests from older men to bring child or adolescent wives to the U.S., and approved 2,926 requests from young girls to bring their older husbands to the U.S. between the budget years of 2007 and 2017. The data also revealed 4,749 minor spouses or fiancees had received U.S. green cards in that time period.
The highest percentage of requests came from Middle Eastern nationals, with the majority of requests coming from Mexico, followed by Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and Yemen.
The requests and their approvals were apparently legal, according to government data obtained by The Associate Press, due to the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not limit the age of spouses. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also approves or denies requests based on whether the marriage is legal in the home country and the state of the applicant.
Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the approvals highlight a legal loophole in which, contrary to U.S. policy on child marriage, U.S. immigration services enable the marriages of girls as young as 15 to men as old as 49.
“It indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close,” Johnson told the AP.