U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

First Sham Marriage Dooms Later Green Card Request

You can marry for love, you can marry for money, you can marry as part of a bet. But if you marry for a green card, your marriage won't count for immigration and naturalization purposes. And if you're caught marrying in order to evade U.S. immigration laws, you're banned from ever getting a visa or green card, even if you enter into a later, legitimate marriage with a U.S. citizen.

And that's just what happened to attempted-immigrant Mohit Sehgal, who got caught paying for a sham marriage only to later enter into a legitimate relationship with another American citizen.

No Second Chances for Sham Marriages

In 2003, Mohit Sehgal, an Indian citizen living in the U.S., married Renee Miller, an American. Soon after, she submitted a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, and he filed a Form 1-485, to gain lawful permanent resident status based on his new marriage.

Sehgal and Miller didn't get too far into the immigration process before being tripped up, however. During a 2005 immigration interview, the couple said they lived together with Sehgal's mother. When the mother was called to confirm, she said she had "no idea" what immigration officers were talking about.

Through proceedings that ranged over six years, it was eventually revealed that Sehgal and Miller's marriage was illegitimate. Miller had a child that was not Sehgal's, the two eventually divorced, and ICE officers arrested a marriage broker, Teresita Zarrabian, who Sehgal admitted to paying to arrange his fake marriage.

Shortly thereafter, Sehgal applied again, having now entered into a legitimate marriage with an American. His request to gain legal status was rejected, however, given the earlier determination that he had engaged in marriage fraud.

Substantial Evidence Backs Denial

Since Sehgal was not subject to a removal order and the approval of an I-130 petition is not discretionary, his only recourse was to bring suit against the government under the Administrative Procedure Act. On appeal, Sehgal and his new wife attacked the reliability of both his and Miller's earlier confessions to ICE agents. Miller's statement, Sehgal argues, was unreliable hearsay. In immigration proceedings, hearsay is allowable so long as it is probative.

As Sehgal notes, Miller's testimony was often mischaracterized as "sworn," including in government briefs to the court, when it had not been sworn. While the Seventh Circuit noted their disappointment in "the government's sloppiness," they found the error harmless and the confession highly probative.

Similarly, the court rejected Sehgal's attack on his own confession. Though Sehgal claimed it was coerced, but the court found those allegations "too vague and inconsistent" to undermine his confession. And with that, the court confirmed Sehgal's immigration denial.

And to think, had Sehgal waited just a few years, he might have had a real marriage to rely on in the first place.

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