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Forced Marriage & Immigration in the U.S.

What is a forced marriage? It’s where a marriage takes place and one or both of the spouses does not consent to the marriage – it is forced upon them. The issue here is the “lack of consent” on behalf of the individual who was forced and coerced into the marriage.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), “Consent means that you have given your full, free, and informed agreement to marry your intended spouse and to the timing of the marriage.” Generally, a forced marriage occurs when family members or others use these methods to force the victim(s) into a marriage without their consent:

  • Force
  • Threats
  • Deception
  • Physical force
  • Physical or emotional abuse

According to the USCIS, the victims of forced marriage vary in age. They can be boys or girls, teenagers, and even grown men and women. Forced marriage can affect anyone. It can impact victims regardless of their age, race, religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class. It can affect the rich, the poor, the educated and uneducated alike.

Is an Arranged Marriage the Same as a Forced Marriage?

The USCIS does NOT view arranged marriages and forced marriages the same. As you’re probable well-aware, some cultures still practice arranged marriages today. Even if the engaged parties have never met, they may believe that an arranged marriage is in their best interests and they willingly consent.

With an arranged marriage, the family may virtually select their son or daughter’s marriage partner, but both parties agree to get married. They exercise “freedom of choice” in the matter. In contrast, a forced marriage does not involve the element of “agency” or “choice.” Instead, one or both parties are forced into the marriage. The victim has no choice.

Signs of a forced marriage include:

  • You were not given a choice about the marriage.
  • You are threatened by isolation, abandonment, emotional or physical abuse, if you do not marry who you’re told to marry.
  • If you say “no,” you will be cut off from your family or you will be physically harmed.
  • You are being watched closely to prevent you from talking to someone about your predicament.
  • You feel that if you leave your spouse, it would cause you or your family shame, or it will bring harm to you or your family.
  • If you refuse to marry or if you leave the spouse you did not consent to marry, you fear you will be killed.
  • Your cellphone, money, identification, or travel documents have taken away from you and you will not get them back unless you enter into the forced marriage.

Forced Marriage is a Human Rights Abuse

The U.S. government views forced marriage as a human rights abuse and it is strongly against it. If a child is being forced into a marriage, the child is a victim of child abuse, and his or her parents or legal guardians can be prosecuted accordingly. For Green Card holders, this can be a “deportable offense.”

In all U.S. states, including Texas, if someone forces another person into marriage, he or she can be charged with family violence (assault and aggravated assault), stalking, kidnapping, sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, and coercion.

“People who force someone to marry may also face significant immigration consequences, such as being inadmissible to or removable from the United States,” says the USCIS.

For more information on forced marriage, contact The Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC to speak with a Plano immigration lawyer.