Since I moved back to California in 1988, I've received three marriage proposals.
None had anything to do with love. They were straight business propositions wherein I—an American citizen— would be paid to marry illegal aliens. Then my new bride would be able to pursue legal permanent residence.
The intermediaries presented photos of attractive women in their early to mid-30s. If I said the word, the candidates would jet into town for proper introductions.
Although financial details weren't settled, the sum generally discussed for my hand would be in the low five-figure range—half up front and the other half to follow when my bride's paperwork was officially processed.
My third and most recent proposal was bold and brazen. A visa over-stayer from Thailand, a casual acquaintance, told me that it is unseemly for men of a certain age and standing—my age and standing, apparently—to be single.
"Let's get married," she said.
My suitor acknowledged that money usually is part of these arrangements and admitted that she had none. However, she vividly described what she would bring to our marriage in lieu of cash.
Naturally, since fraudulent marriage is against the law, I turned down all three proposals flat.
But I'm confident that the women found takers in no time.
Whenever there's a few bucks to be hustled, people don't give much thought to immigration law.
In May 2004 NBC's Dateline produced a television special focusing on the "booming marriage fraud industry."
Complete with hidden cameras and undercover reporters, here are a few of the cases that Dateline exposed:
According to Sarah, an active network of recruiters from companies like California's Worldwide International (no longer operating under that name) look for down-and-out people who will jump at the chance for quick cash.
Said Sarah, "They just say 'Come follow me.'"
Sarah described Worldwide International as "a virtual money machine with immigrants handing over suitcases full of money for sham marriages."
These are bogus marriages at their most ugly… where the unscrupulous and the broke team up to defraud the US government.
Even "Eda," one of the "facilitators of fraudulent marriages," told a Dateline reporter disguised as a prospective bride, "Be careful with these people. Who get married for money? People low-income and low class."
The fiancée visa, wherein a middle aged, loser American male chooses a catalogue bride, grows more popular every day.
In my English as a second language adult education class, I now have no less than four such brides as pupils—three Russians and one Peruvian.
Similarly, arranged marriages that originate in the US are more common than most realize.
A typical case: two young women I have known since they were teenagers returned to Pakistan—against their will—for arranged marriages. Their father had pledged to a friend from his Pakistani village that, when his daughters reached puberty, he would send them back to marry his friend's sons…so that they could come to America.
Things ended poorly for the women. They returned to the US, were soon joined by their husbands and spent a few years in unhappy marriages before divorcing.
But for the grooms, it was manna from heaven: green cards and ultimately citizenship.
Fraudulent marriages represent another layer of frustration for immigration reformers because they trigger chain migration that pushes U.S. population even higher.
But far worse than frustration are the terrorism threats fraud marriages create. Terrorists know how easy it is to exploit such a gaping hole in the immigration system.
In her September 2002 book, Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, Michelle Malkin named fifteen known terrorists—including Osama bin Laden's personal secretary!—who married US citizens and remained inside the US.
One terrorist paid as little as $1,100; another married three different American women before getting his green card.
Shortly after the publication of Malkin's book, one hundred seven Middle Eastern men living illegally in the US were arrested in South Carolina under "Operation Broken Vows." Federal authorities were quick to say that the men from Pakistan, Tunisia and southern Asia had no "terrorism-related connections." But who really knows?
Now, more than two years after Operation Broken Vows, fraud marriages continue unabated.
On Dateline, Joe Green, Assistant Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security estimates that 30 percent of all marriages between an immigrant and a US citizen are fraudulent.
That adds up to tens of thousands of phony marriages annually.
Yet Green didn't offer much comfort.
"You could have potentially very dangerous people living in the US," said Green—apparently unaware that we already have thousands of "dangerous people" well entrenched because of loopholes like fraud marriage.
Of all of the avenues that America could pursue to truly combat terrorism, ending the fiancée visa, which ultimately benefits only immigration lawyers, and more crackdowns on sham marriage matchmakers like "Operation Broken Vows", would be among the simplest.
If journalists can find underground organizers who trade in fraudulent marriage, then how hard could it be for the Department of Homeland Security to root them out?
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.