Immigration Marriage Fraud Sucks, Knowledgable Advice Please?
July 8, 2013 10:02 PM   Subscribe

I am writing to humbly plead for your assistance as a victim of immigration fraud, advice and/or professional contacts anyone might have regarding my situation. My husband married me, got his greencard in mail and promptly fled, refusing to grant me an annulment.

The immigration fraud was perpetrated by the illegitimate marriage of my husband to myself, under the false pretenses that he married me out of love. Instead, there is much evidence that he married me for the sake of his green card; including the fact that very shortly after he received it in the mail, without any comprehensible reason, said he no longer wanted to be my husband and left me.

I take responsibility for being naive and in love; however, he was such a good actor that he even fooled many family members into believing he was sincere. He meets more than the majority of criteria for a psychopath. In answer to those potential questions that might ask if I did something to cause him to leave such as cheat on him or something else equally horrid, no, I did not. In fact, it was such a shock because I had thought everything was going wonderfully, and that we had a great marriage.

I had petitioned for him while I still believed he married me for love, under 201B INA Spouse of USC.
As a result of learning my husband married me for fraudulent reasons, I was hospitalized because of a suicide attempt as a direct result of his actions, and have subsequently been heavily medicated and in ongoing therapy because of this crime.

I have filed with the Supreme Court of California, San Fernando Valley for an annulment under Fraud [Fam. Code ยง2210(d)]. However, my husband has retained a lawyer to refute the charges, who has resorted to dishonest practices such as scheduling a court hearing without my knowledge, and claiming that failed to appear, when in fact I was never notified of any hearing.

I am without the funds to hire a lawyer for myself; and am also of the opinion that this is more than a case of simple annulment, it is a case of immigration fraud.

I have contacted lawyer referral services, pro bono and low cost lawyers, but they said that they do not practice annulment law because there are so few cases (such as mine) that truly merit annulment. Therefore I searched for alternate help.

I contacted ICE and Immigration Customs, who informed me that they do not deal with marriage fraud cases. However, the ICE website indicates otherwise, so I filed a report. I was then referred to the USCIS, whose webpage said that to report immigration fraud I was to click on the page for the State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, to whom I submitted my case. However, the online information and report form seemed to indicate that it was for assistance for immigrants, not those who want to report immigration fraud.

Basically everyone from the government said that there are so many cases of immigration marriage fraud in the US, that the government will not bother to investigate any of them.

Is there anyone with knowledge of the immigration system or of pro bono or very low cost lawyers who do deal with legitimate annulment cases?

I earnestly thank you in advance for your assistance.
posted by Arachnophile to Law & Government (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Check with the California State Bar. The state bar in Oregon has a modest means program for people with limited financial resources. I have no idea if California has a similar program, but it's worth checking.

You can also check with the state bar about the process for filing an ethics complaint against your husband's attorney, if he is in fact misleading or lying to the court. Lawyers are officers of the court and are held to a (unexpectedly high) standard, in spite of or maybe because of the general public perception of lawyers.
posted by Happydaz at 10:08 PM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Happydaz has VERY good advice.

I have exceptional empathy for you. I'm so sorry this happened.

Funny, I went through the green card process with my husband and a lawyer we hired in Los Angeles, and the alphabet soup of agencies you listed are not familiar to me in their acronym form.

I have a difficult time believing the US Immigration Department we dealt with during our process doesn't care about fraud. Truly.

How many years were you together? Did you have children? Why do you want an anullment instead of a divorce?

My husband is not a psychopath or a sociopath - but I've been entangled with my share of those.

Again, I have exceptional empathy for you. I'm so sorry this happened.

Your husband is working and has abandoned you. Most shady men in California fear divorce because it means they are on the hook for serious alimony payments.

Were you supporting him? Will you have to pay him alimony in a divorce??

I'll say this with respect.... You don't sound like you are thinking about this rationally, you are clear in your objectives thus far, but these particular objectives won't give you closure or make you whole again, from a legal stand point. I think (but check with a lawyer or two!) that is why you are not getting any traction with immigration agencies.

Frankly, it sounds like your liar ex-husband owes you major compensation, and a good divorce attorney can get that for you through the court or mediation.

An anullment might not help you as much as what you can get out of a divorce. Maybe you don't even want him deported if the abandonment guarantees you alimony.

I don't know for sure, but because he abandoned you and the marriage, he may be on the hook for your attorney fees as a result of his actions.

He has a lawyer. You need one, too.

I don't know what assets are involved, but if his income is sufficient and he was supporting you, you might only need to come up with enough money for a retainer until the case is decided.

Furthermore, you or your attorney can file ethics charges against his attorney with the California Bar if your claim that his attorney acted unethically is sound and provable. This is a Big Deal. His attorney can be disbarred, essentially fired from his career.

The suicide attempt is only germane to your legal counsel, otherwise, it paints you in a bad light. Stop using that as evidence of misdeeds. Find a lawyer and let THEM handle how to present the issues from here on out.

Stay strong. Find a lawyer.
posted by jbenben at 12:31 AM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

For the record, I hate hate HATE having to tell you that a suicide attempt "isn't germane" because I KNOW that level of spiritual and emotional pain.

From a legal standpoint, and this is a legal issue, the first concern is the actual abandonment of the marriage. Questions of fraud, liability, emotional cruelty - that's secondary.

Get a divorce lawyer whether you are seeking anullment or alimonoy or deportation.

A lawyer versed in divorce AND immigration issues is your best bet.

In SoCal, a lawyer with this combination of expertise can't be hard to find!

Did you use a lawyer for your husband's green card process? START THERE.
posted by jbenben at 12:44 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should bring this question to VisaJourney, the forum to post in is Effects of Major Family Changes on Immigration Benefits

Here is a thread on the steps to report fraud.
posted by nanook at 6:51 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never had to deal with government-related issues of this magnitude, but I am among a considerable number of people who've been able to cut through significant bureaucratic headaches, delays, etc., by contacting the offices of congressmen, senators and state reps and state senators.
posted by ambient2 at 7:02 AM on July 9, 2013

Did you use a lawyer for your husband's green card process? START THERE.

I'm a California-barred lawyer but not your lawyer and this isn't legal advice.

I agree with everyone who says that you need a lawyer. But do NOT start with the lawyer who processed your husband's green card application. That lawyer (i) was an immigration lawyer, not a divorce lawyer and (ii) would have a serious conflict of interest in any divorce proceeding where you're alleging that the green card was procured through fraud.
posted by ewiar at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does your husband have his 2 year or 10 year green card? If it's the 2 year one he will still have to file for removal of conditions, at which point he will have to prove he had a real marriage. You want to go around immediately and remove his name from anything tied with your name. Leases, bank accounts what ever so when he goes to file for removal of conditions he won't have enough proof and having recently gone through this stage they require a shit tonne of evidence.

You will need proof that the marriage was a fraud, anything he has texted or emailed you any letters even affidavit from witnesses that were in the room with you when he said or did something. You need actual evidence if you want to stop him from getting a green card, or it simply becomes his word against yours and now he's in the country it's a lot easier for him to stay. Send this information to Homeland security/Immigration if you can in a well organised file, keeping copies for yourself with a cover letter and referencing any file numbers etc if possible. Phone calls and emails are one thing, actual hard evidence in front of them is another.

You need to report the lawyer, as others have suggested.

I am curious as to why are you going for an annulment and not a divorce? If nothing else it would make it easier to find a lawyer and I really think this is the main thing you should focus on is making sure you are protected during all this, also if he has more money than you, you might be giving up things you are entitled too, and with an asshole like this his pocket book is the best place to hurt him. He is going to want to delay getting divorced/annulled long enough to go for ROC (if that hasn't already happened).

Do not use the suicide or depression as any sort of legal proceedings, it really has no benefit and in fact I could see it being used against you in a "See why I left her she's all moody and depressive" kind of way.

All immigration advice is based only on my own experiences moving to the US, every case is different.
posted by wwax at 9:27 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry that you're going through this experience. I don't know if there is a law school near you but I would try contacting them to see if they have a legal clinic that might be able to advise you of your options. Perhaps a Catholic law school can help you find someone who can help with an annulment.

I agree that the request for an annulment seems odd but understandable if you have religious reasons for preferring that over a divorce. Plus if you ever want to get married in a church again, you need an annulment generally and that's difficult to get without the cooperation of the other spouse. If there are religious issues at play here, maybe ask people in that religious community where to find an attorney. Maybe you can file a complaint against your ex's lawyer for not letting you know about the hearing with the bar association?

As a non-lawyer trying to think strategically on your behalf, I am much more interested in why you want an annulment instead of a divorce than your suicide attempt. I'm not saying that I don't care but if you open with that when you call lawyers, they will probably think that you're crazy and hang up. I hope that I'm not coming across as mean because I am sorry that you are going through this much pain but I work in communications and I simply don't think that's what you want to start with when telling your story. In fact, I would leave that out all together unless there's reason to mention it. Don't give anyone any reason to think that you're crazy. Otherwise, they're more likely to dismiss your story. I don't think that you're crazy but my opinion doesn't count for much, I'm afraid.

I would prepare yourself for the possibility (likelihood?) that he will say that he did marry you for love but wants out of the marriage because you smell/he's gay/you're an abusive cheater or something else horrible and probably not based in reality. It's in his interests to say that he wants out of your relationship for reasons not related to his green card. If he says that you were an abusive spouse for example, pro bono lawyers who work to protect immigrants and domestic violence survivors may help him out. Document everything and get a lawyer ASAP.

Best wishes.
posted by kat518 at 11:30 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am sorry to hear about what you are going through. I went through a similar situation a few years ago, and I sent you some details about that in a MeMail.

As for the legal case for an annulment vs. the legal case for immigration fraud, the major difference is this:

An annulment is a matter of civil law which you can sue (file a complaint) to request. I did this, and under the law in my jurisdiction (which is different from yours), I only proved two out of the three necessary elements of fraud in the inducement to marry to the satisfaction of the judge, so I was denied an annulment and granted a divorce instead. That said, the judge included his findings of misrepresentation on the part of my ex-wife and damages incurred by me due to reliance upon her misrepresentations in the divorce order he eventually issued. Although I "lost" my annulment case, I was glad that the judge stated these findings in his ruling because it ensured that USCIS would take note of the relevant facts when my ex-wife filed for AOS (to become a _permanent_ permanent resident of the United States, as opposed to a holder of 2-year provisional permanent resident status).

Immigration fraud, on the other hand, is a criminal matter. In the United States, a private citizen may not bring a criminal case before the court; only a prosecutor can. If you talk to the police / USCIS / ICE / etc, you may be able to persuade them to bring an immigration fraud case against your (ex-)husband. However, as you found, this may be easier said than done.

A third route would be to go ahead and pursue your annulment case to the best of your ability (preferably with the assistance of an attorney), and to send the judgment issued to USCIS, insisting that it be added to your (ex-)husband's file. Although this doesn't seem likely to result in criminal sanctions, it should at least prove a significant hurdle for him if/when he files for adjustment of status to non-provisional permanent residency.

Perhaps needless to say, I am not a lawyer and nothing in this message is legal advice, but I certainly wish you the best. Please feel free to MeMail me if you have any specific questions or just want to commiserate.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:23 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

One final note about VisaJourney: When I found myself in a situation similar to yours and asked about it on VJ, I received quite a few negative and non-constructive responses.

It's *possible* that, as a female, you will receive fewer of these, but I'm not at all sure that will be the case. VJ (perhaps understandably) seems to have a strongly pro-immigration stance, so I would just recommend that you be prepared to receive some negativity and personal criticism should you decide to post there seeking advice on your present situation.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:42 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your extremely helpful and caring responses. I am taking the time to read them all carefully and take your advice seriously.

I can answer more questions later, but the most common question is why I am seeking an annulment instead of a divorce. It is be cause an annulment is the proper legal disillusion of marriage under CA law in the case of fraud. There are basically very few reasons, without looking them up they include incest, unsound mind, and fraudulent intentions such as for a greencard. In CA, a divorce is a "no fault" divorce, where the two of you are treated equally and no one owes anyone anything. This is very clearly a case of fraud, and I have the texts and emails of him admitting that he didn't mean any of his vows during the wedding (that we wrote together) and that he never intended to stay married to me.

The reason I mentioned the suicide (although I also agree with your reasons for not mentioning it) is because there is a crime in CA called something similar to "induced emotional or physical harm", where the person either emotionally or physically pushes someone into harm. The perpetrator is forced to pay all hospital bills, therapy and medication bills as a result of conviction. I have overwhelming evidence and witnesses of this.

With a divorce, there is no acknowledgement of fraud, and there is no alimony. We both make the same amount of money, but it has been very difficult for him to get a greencard. And it was just at the 2 year mark that he got his greencard and barely a week later his stuff was gone and he had left.

Yes I need a lawyer. I'm just not sure where to find one. And I am not asking for money except maybe help with medical bills, only for justice. Bah humbug, what a silly naive American I am.
posted by Arachnophile at 8:43 PM on July 9, 2013

I think the crimes (torts, actually - the civil 'equivalent' of a crime) you are referring to are commonly known as Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.

From what I've read as a lay-person, these are *very* difficult cases to win. Much more difficult than your complaint for an annulment. I could sort of/maybe see representing oneself in an annulment case, although it doesn't strike me as a good idea. I can't at all see any realistic chance of success in an infliction of emotional distress case without not just an attorney, but a good attorney.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how much time, money, and emotional energy you wish to spend on pursuing various actions against your soon-to-be-ex-husband. This is another area in which people are likely to try to tell you what you should do and how you should or will feel. I don't think anyone can decide this for you; you alone have to decide what is best for you.

For me, personally, this meant suing for the annulment (even though I lost) and informing USCIS of the outcome of that proceeding. Despite losing the annulment case, I was satisfied that I had maintained my personal integrity* and done what I reasonably could to try to prevent my ex from gaining any further benefits from the fraud she perpetrated against me and the U.S. government. I suppose I could have hired an immigration lawyer and attempted to further insert myself into her adjustment-of-status proceedings after the divorce, but at that point, it just didn't seem worthwhile to me to do so.

*[My ex wanted to make a divorce settlement involving one of her family members promising to reimburse me for any expenses incurred under the I-864 I signed for her, but entering into that agreement would have required that I essentially lie to the court by telling the judge that our marriage broke down because of "a misunderstanding regarding the having of children" or some other bull---- that her lawyer made up. My attorney advised me that this would not have constituted perjury, but in the end, I found myself unwilling to do it, especially in consideration for the minimal financial assurances offered.]

At any rate, it may be worth your while to get an initial consultation with a divorce (or "family law") attorney. Even if you definitely want to pursue the annulment, I suspect this would be the right type of lawyer to help you with your case.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 9:27 PM on July 9, 2013

I am a lawyer, not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

The attacks in this thread on your decision to seek an annulment are unwarranted. Your situation seems like the classic examples of annulment for fraud. In fact, California lists it as the first example in their annulment FAQ here:

If someone told you that they will not take you on because they do not "practice annulment law," you don't want them anyway. "Annulment law" is not a practice area; it is relatively rare but also relatively uncomplicated. Find someone who does divorces and is not looking for an excuse to blow you off. They will understand the annulment requirements. I nth the advice to contact the California State Bar so that you can find a pro bono family attorney.

While annulment is rare, it certainly does happen. One of my best friends, also a lawyer, just sought an annulment of her marriage in Illinois on the basis of fraud - she argued that he never intended to live with her as husband and wife and presented evidence that, though he claimed otherwise, he never made plans to move to her state and share a residence with her. Her marriage was successfully annulled a few months ago.
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:51 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, I'm sure you've seen this, but just in case: will help you understand the process ahead of you.
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw this thread late, but you can all the LA Family Law Center. It's a non-profit that assists in self-representation for family law, including divorce and annulment.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:53 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, for actual representation you might try giving Levitt-Quinn (another non-profit) a call.
(213) 482-1800
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:59 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, thank you, thank all of you. I'm so sorry for not responding sooner, it's been a difficult time. I am extremely grateful for the very thoughtful, insightful and knowledgeable advice and referrals. I have looked into all of them and they have been very helpful.
posted by Arachnophile at 11:14 AM on September 30, 2013

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