Recently, declaring, “One person denied due process is too many,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos restored due process rights for those accused of sexual assault at institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, an even more pernicious violation of due process is being waged, not by colleges and universities, but by the federal government with its full weight, power, and authority and by which citizens are labeled sex offenders, robbed of their reputations, and chained to a life of indentured servitude.
In 1996, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which requires the sponsor of an “intending immigrant”—in most cases the citizen seeking to marry the immigrant—to complete an “Affidavit of Support” (Form I-864). The citizen avers the immigrant will have adequate means of financial support, is not “likely to become a public charge,” and pledges to “[p]rovide … any support necessary to maintain him or her at an income that is at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for his or her household size…” A “NOTE” warns, “Divorce does not terminate your obligations under Form I-864.” Moreover, the document “create[s] a contract between you and the U.S. Government[,]” which “consider[s] your income and assets [available to support] the intending immigrant.” Not just the federal government has financial recourse; the immigrant “may sue you for this support,” and “a Federal, state, local, or private agency [that provides means-tested public benefits to the immigrant] may sue you for the amount that the agency believes you owe.” Finally, there is liability for “the costs of collection, including attorney fees.”
What could go wrong? Usually nothing. The citizen files a “Petition for Alien Relative” (I-130), which begins the process by which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) finds that a bonafide marriage exists and that the alien is legally admissible. After an interview with the couple, the alien becomes a conditional permanent resident (receives a “green card”) and, two years later, after documentation of the authenticity of the marital relationship, becomes a permanent resident. Of course, scoundrels exist, including those who engage in sham marriages not only to enter the United States but also to dragoon an unfortunate citizen into providing income for a lifetime.
Unfortunately, as so often happens, federal law provides them more than adequate opportunity to engage in their mischief.
In 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which continued a provision, first enacted in 1994, for alleged victims of domestic abuse to self-report (Form I-360), with “any credible evidence,” of the abuse. Customarily, the “any credible evidence” accepted by USCIS is a temporary restraining order (TRO), which is granted by a court ex parte, that is, without the alleged perpetrator present, relying solely on the victim’s affidavit.
Based on that temporary restraining order—the citizen is neither consulted nor notified—the USCIS’s Vermont Service Center issues a “Prima Facie Determination Notice” finding that the alien is a victim and the citizen is an abuser, and thereupon authorizes the alien to abandon the marriage and issues the alien the sought-after green card. According to experts, in 98 percent of the cases, weeks later when the citizen appears in court to challenge the temporary restraining order, the alien is a no-show and the temporary restraining order is vacated or the case is dismissed.
Legally, the case is over. What is not over is the citizen’s obligation to support the spouse, former spouse, or remarried former spouse for life.
A cottage industry of for-profit and taxpayer-funded lawyers aids in this circumvention of immigration laws and schools others in it. Worse yet, the Deep State within USCIS hosts webinars on this nefarious process. Meanwhile, left in their wake are citizens who are labeled domestic abusers—including the “extreme cruelty” of not signing immigration documents—are regarded in that dreadful light by law enforcement and the public, suffer damaged reputations, and are on the hook financially forever. All without due process of law.
William Perry Pendley is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, has argued cases before the Supreme Court and worked in the Department of the Interior during the Reagan administration. He is the author of "Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan's Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today."
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