Love American Style

I was riding the bus to work the other day and overheard a conversation in Spanish. A man was talking about the fact that a woman from Peru had asked him to marry her so she could become a citizen. She offered him $8,000.00. She said that she would pay him $4,000.00 up front, and then the balance after she received the papers.

“She’s not that ugly,” he said. “I mean, we can file for divorce after a few years. Who knows, maybe we’ll have a little fun too.” Then he laughed.

His friends looked at him and shook their heads. They peppered him with questions like “Dude, don’t you know that this could possibly turn into a problem? You know if you get caught, we’ll be visiting you in jail.”

He shrugged and lifted his hands. His male and females friends were making exaggerated motions with their hands. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” said one female. “Are you out of your mind,” said another.

“Why am I out of my mind?” he said. “I need money, times are hard, and she’s offering a good amount.”

They didn’t believe he was serious. I overheard one of them saying he was making the whole thing up. But then I remembered when I was approached while waiting for the bus about eight years ago. When you take public transportation to work, you meet people and talk.

The woman who asked me was from Chile. After about three months of meeting at the bus stop, she asked if I would marry her boyfriend. My jaw dropped. Before I could respond, she continued to explain that he would never live with me, and that we could divorce after three years. I was stunned.

When I told her that I would never do such a thing. She said, “But aren’t you half Puerto Rican?” And that was it. I lost my temper and told her that she had insulted me. After that, I never saw her waiting for the bus again.

I understand it is difficult; foreigners are not having an easy time trying to go through the proper channels. My friend Lucy had an attorney who was constantly expecting payment. I never heard anything to indicate that she was closer to obtaining her papers. Once I asked if she wanted me to accompany her to the attorney’s office, but she said no. She didn’t want to cause trouble.

A former co-worker from Africa had the same problem. He sent money to an attorney located in his homeland. He paid the attorney close to $4,000.00 for his wife to join him here. He went back to Africa to meet with the attorney, but was unable to resolve anything.

I understand why a foreigner would choose the marriage route to be able to stay in this country. Although, I think they might feel differently if they truly understood that a myriad of things could go wrong — including being caught by immigration. And what happens if one cannot find the other to divorce?

From what I have been told, it isn’t easy to obtain a green card, let alone apply for citizenship. Let’s hope the government develops a system where foreigners can apply, receive trustworthy guidance, and not have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to crooked attorneys.

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