September 26, 2008
By Alphayo Otieno in Kansas City, USA
Kenyans abroad now have a reason to smile following President Kibaki’s announcement in New York supporting dual citizenship.
This is a matter many hold close to their hearts considering the great troubles they take to remain abroad.
Some American citizens, sensing the desperation of many illegal immigrants wanting to remain in the US, are now ‘hawking’ marriages of convenience.
The most willing husbands are those of African-American descent and the Latin Americans emigrants. Some of them hardly speak any English.
"The encounter with the ‘husbands’ happens in the most unexpected of places. When you go out to a discotheque in the heart of Washington DC," said one woman who sought anonymity, "these guys keenly monitor your every move, especially if they sense you are not American."
"The catch is that they will furtively approach you and then ask if you want a husband," she says.
"Need husband (sic) for US$12,000?" they will ask in broken English.
It is common to hear of Kenyans hoping from one state to the other looking for a husband to marry. This is because some of the states have beaten the husband-seekers in their own game.
Because the women are in so much haste to beat the Federal Officers breathing down their necks because of expired visas.
In the mouse and cat game, some of the Kenyans women are arrested and deported as happened to the sister of a prominent MP recently.
Take Mary Wafula, for instance. When she first went to the US four years ago, she was meant to be there for at least six months. The I-94 card pinned on her passport allowed her to stay in the US for a period not exceeding six months.
Today she is a permanent resident of the US, with a Green Card and a social security number, which allow to her to work and live there legally.
The Green Card — officially known as a permanent resident card — is without doubt a most valuable document.
"It has not been an easy ride for me," Mary confides, sipping a Pepsi soda during her break at a home for the elderly where she is a nursing assistant.
"I had to get an American to marry me," she says. "I didn’t care whether I was in love. I was paying for the service. All I wanted was someone on whose back I could ride on to grant me the privilege to change my status."
Mary says at first her spouse did not know her intentions but she was cautious not to let the cat out of the bag until she was through with the rigorous immigration processes.
There were times, she says the woman in her mid-30s, when her African-American "spouse" would demand money from her and she had no option but to yield.
"I bought him drugs occasionally because he smokes weed a lot and also took care of his drinking bills. When he lacked fuel in his car, it was my duty to buy."
Mary thinks it was her obedience that got her the privileges of living in the US, as legally protected immigrant.
Elsewhere, Eric Kimani, now a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) says he feared the reprisals of a fake marriage and opted to feign love with an American woman for the sake of "papers".
"I had no option but to divorce the hell as soon as my green card hit the mailbox. It was a matter of patience, but there were times when I thought the world would harsh on me in this foreign land," he says.
Kimani says he was not happy in the union at all.
"I was often feeling a bit suffocated in the marriage but had no option, for if I walked out of it, I would find myself out of status and that would mean I return to Kenya," he says.
To secure employment in the US, one requires a social security number. Students are given such numbers because they are allowed to work part-time, but that does not grant them the permission to live and work there indefinitely.
In 2005, the American Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents initiated an investigation dubbed ‘Operation True Lies’, probing marriage fraud that involved Horry and Dillon County residents and Kenyans living in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Georgia.
Many illegal aliens were reported to have fled the US for fear of arrest and possible deportation.
Reports from the ICE indicate that some 13 "fake" marriages were unearthed, with the oldest dating back to September 1997.
The couples had stated on legal documents that they were living together as husband and wife when they were not, and no intentions of doing so.
The fraudulent marriages are still very much around, and allow Kenyans and other immigrants in the US to secure indefinite stay there – for a fee.
American citizens receive US$2,000 (Sh150,000) to enter into fake marriages with Kenyans or other nationalities.
A Russian woman recently advertised online seeking "Green Card marriage" and promising to pay $15,000 (Sh1million) with the caveat: "Strictly platonic business offer, no sex."
Naturally, the announcement caught the attention of American immigration.
The woman and her American husband were arrested last December for what federal prosecutors alleged was a sham marriage.
This is reported to be the first criminal case of its kind in which people allegedly used the Internet to engineer a sham marriage for a Green Card.
But it does not mean those seeking fake "marriage" mates more discreetly are out of harm’s way –Kenyans included.
"The prevailing social order has not been too kind to the Kenyan woman in the Diaspora," says a Kenyan professor at Rice University in the US.
It is for this reason that most of them turn to these marriages of convenience.
Friday, September 26, 2008
September 26, 2008
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