4244 Blagden Ave. NW Washington, DC 20011
June 2, 2011
False Allegations Summit
Sponsored by Stop Abusive and Violent Environments
My area of concern is the VAWA Immigration loophole that serves as an incentive for false accusations of abuse by foreign-born spouses.
I am an immigrant myself. I was born in Moscow. I was born a year before Stalin died and I remember the stories about innocent neighbors in our communal apartment that had been taken away by the KGB. Our good neighbors had been pronounced “Enemies of the Motherland” and were never seen again. But that was in the “Evil Empire” many years ago. I thought that horror of being an innocent victim of somebody’s wild accusation without the right for the due process is the thing of the past. Little did I know.
I immigrated to this country from the former Soviet Union with my husband and two small children in 1985. My first job was at Johns Hopkins University as a lecturer of Political Russian. Shortly after that my husband was killed in a car accident. I was thrown into a world of uncertainty trying to learn how to survive as a single mother of two in a new country and a new language, without relatives or friends, who could support us. This life experience changed my life personally and professionally. In the process of the search for a role model for my children I discovered my ability to match people. Since I am a Russian living in America I started matching Russian women with American men, and as a result Encounters International came into existence in 1993.
I believe that since that time it became my mission to bring together two lonely and unhappy people and make them happy again in the comfort of a loving family. I enjoyed and believed in that up to the year 2002, when I was served with a Federal lawsuit by Nataliya Fox through her pro bono army of lawyers from Arnold & Porter and the Tahirih Justice Center.
It is important to understand that marriage-based immigration goes back to the days of the Wild West, and has been regulated by the US government to discourage marriage fraud as a way to get a US citizenship. According to the most recent Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendment passed by Congress in 1986, if a couple gets a divorce within two years of the marriage, a foreign-born spouse must depart this country.
However, the Violence Against Women Act, first passed into law in 1994, provides an immigration loophole for any alien who claims to be abused. Once a foreign spouse merely alleges abuse by a US citizen spouse, her immigration file receives “fast track” treatment by a special unit of VAWA-trained adjudicators located in Vermont. At the same time a curtain of secrecy drops over immigration proceedings by prohibiting the disclosure of any information to the US citizen spouse concerning allegations or any Government “findings” about the “crime” that he or she is accused of.
Behind the Star Chamber curtain exists a foreign spouse, VAWA advocates, and profit-driven immigration attorneys who are free to submit false information on criminal conduct of a US spouse, because there is no one to refute their statements or attack their credibility. The US citizen spouse receives no notice of the Government proceedings that inevitably destroy his reputation and forever fix a false evil image of him in Government records that can be widely disseminated by VAWA advocates to forward their agenda of “abuse epidemics.”
In addition to the incentive of receiving a Green Card without a two-year wait, VAWA encourages immigration fraud in many other ways, like free stay in a shelter for as long as two years, free legal assistance to file additional fraudulent claims of abuse, free litigation in immigration and family courts, free medical care, free educational classes, job placement, as well as by allowing illegal aliens with a criminal background and deportees to self-petition while absolving self-petitioners from any responsibility for bringing false claims of abuse.
This is an example of how the process works:
One day in October 1998 Nataliya came to my office crying and asking to help her stay in the USA a little longer. She came from the Ukraine as Jeff’s fiancée on a 90-day fiancée (K-1) visa. Her relationship with Jeff did not work out, and after a couple of weeks he bought her a return ticket. So Nataliya was tearfully pleading for me to introduce her to somebody else and I thought of Jim Fox, whose fiancée Elena had just left him for the Ukraine. After a short courtship, Jim and Nataliya got married.
However, Nataliya was faced with a dilemma. She wished to obtain her resident status based on her marriage to Jim, but her fiancée visa came from Jeff. The US immigration laws have no provision that would allow foreign nationals to switch fiancées upon their arrival to the United States.
And like many foreign spouses, Nataliya was reluctant to return to the Ukraine.
Instead, she decided to circumvent the INS regulations by essentially impersonating Jim’s original fiancée Elena before the INS. She obtained and submitted Elena’s visa approval letter as her own. The immigration official noted the discrepancy between the names of Elena Rybak on the approval letter and Nataliya Derkach on the Adjustment of Status application. “They got my name wrong,” explained Nataliya. Without delay, the immigration officer crossed out Elena’s name and hand wrote Nataliya’s name instead on Elena’s file. As a Brief of the Department of Homeland Security later concluded, “Mrs. Fox engaged in fraud before the Immigration and Naturalization Service by representing herself to be Ms. Rybak.”
Later that evening Nayaliya boasted to her friends, including myself, how dumb the US Immigration officials are and how easily she was able to deceive the Department into believing she was Elena.
At the end of a two-year period of living under the false identity with many challenges like having to explain her different Alien Registration Numbers to the officials in the Social Security and the Motor Vehicle Administrations, Nataliya faced the ultimate challenge. She expected an immigration interview and had to show that her fingerprints matched Elena’s fingerprints on file in the immigration office before the decision on her permanent Green Card was made.
Under normal circumstances, in the absence of the VAWA immigration loophole, Nataliya would have been caught red-handed for her ongoing document fraud at the time of the interview and eventually deported. However, VAWA provides legal immunity to any person who claims abuse regardless of prior criminal activities. So, Nataliya alleged that her husband Jim attempted to murder her as the basis of her battered spouse claim.
Needless to say, the allegation was so far-fetched that when the matter came to Court, and the judge heard the testimony, all the charges against Jim were dismissed. In fact, the judge ordered the Expungement of all of the records of Jim’s arrest and unsubstantiated charges (see Page 1 and Page 2 of the order). This fact was noted in the subsequent Department of Homeland Security Brief.
It matters nothing for the VAWA advocates, who have their own opinion that “the international matchmaking organization industry tends to attract a subculture of men, who are predators, looking for subservient and vulnerable women for which they can abuse“ (quote from Arnold and Porter’s Federal Court Claim against Jim Fox and Encounters International, working pro bono on behalf of Nataliya Fox). As one of these “international matchmaking organizations,” Encounters International was charged for not informing Nataliya that all American men are abusive, for keeping Nataliya in the “abusive” relationship, and not informing her that she could use the VAWA loophole and forward her marriage fraud to a higher level for the purpose of getting her citizenship.
Natalia’s highly publicized case of “abuse” resulted in her receiving US citizenship, together with $130,000 in cash from Jim Fox and over half a million dollars in judgments from Encounters International. It sent a perverse message to the underground world of illegal immigrants attempting to do the same. It also hurt the real victims of abuse because the epidemic of false allegations inevitably cast doubt on the validity of real victims’ claims. And many of these costs are passed on to American taxpayers.
History repeats itself. In Stalinist Russia innocent people were presumed guilty if reported as “Enemies of the Motherland.” They were sent to the Gulag or executed without due process. In the United States of America, citizens are presumed guilty if reported as “Domestic Abusers.” Likewise without due process, they are hindered by restraining orders, kept in jails, and waste their life savings on legal defense. They lose their jobs, their mental health, their reputation, their trust in justice, and even their self esteem.
Jim Fox’s case was not an isolated incident. In a short period of time I have met dozens of men and women who have been victims of the VAWA immigration loophole. They started several organizations like Voices of American Immigration Fraud Victims and No! to VAWA Immigration Prostitution Marriage Fraud in order to make their voices heard. Most of them are left damaged for life, even after they were found innocent in a court of law. But the worst is that often they are not aware what the laws of their own country can do it to them. By the time they realize it, it is too late.
Having been victimized by the VAWA immigration loophole and virtually eaten alive and bled to death by the three-year litigation, Encounters International and myself personally are working hard to educate vulnerable American men about the dangers of VAWA, as well as advocating for the closing of the VAWA immigration loophole.
Some of the changes that we propose include:
1. All battered spouse self-petitions should be investigated for previous marriage fraud. Self-petitions should be denied if prior marriage fraud is documented.
2. The American spouse should be notified of allegations against him and his testimony should be allowed in immigration court.
3. Investigations should be conducted by trained officers of ICE at the local field office geographically closest to where the alleged domestic violence occurred.
4. If the alien provides false testimony or counterfeit documents, the matter should be referred to the US Attorney Office for consideration of prosecution pursuant and consistent with USDOJ guidelines.
(Note: Copies of the Expungement order, altered INS Adjustment of Status application, and 2004 Department of Homeland Security Brief were posted in May 2012.)