Hollywood makes romantic comedies about it. A couple gets married because one of them is not a U.S. citizen and needs a green card. In fact, the movie was called Green Card. In the Hollywood version, the mismatched pair tie the knot and hilarity ensues. In real life, as one Texas man is finding out, the consequences are not so funny.
When Steve Summers married Evangelina Zapata, a Mexican national, in 2003, he thought he was doing a good thing. Summers became, under the law, Zapata’s sponsor. That meant, as part of the arrangement, he signed a document called “I-864” in which he agreed to support his new spouse at better than the poverty level, 125 percent in fact.
The pledge is a legal requirement of immigration sponsorship, but it is usually treated as an afterthought.
Not in this case. The couple remained married for six years and had a daughter. Zapata then sought a divorce. She remarried and divorced again. Now she is suing to force her first husband to pay her 125 percent of poverty level wages — for life.
Under immigration law, even if a couple divorces, the I-864 contract remains in effect.
“A U.S. citizen can really get screwed under these circumstances,” Summers now says.
The contract is void only if the immigrant gains U.S. citizenship or works for 10 years, neither of which Zapata has done.
“There is no mechanism built into this situation that forces the person to get a job as a permanent resident and become a citizen or you will be deported,” said Summers’ attorney, Marcus Barrera to a local TV station.
Called the “public charge” law, the purpose of the statute is to keep immigrants off of public assistance, but it can backfire on well-intentioned citizens like Summers.
“We warn people about it,” said Texas immigration attorney Joseph De Mott in an interview with Fox News Latino. “People sign these things, they go in a file and they just forget about it.”
SOURCES: ValleyCentral.com, Fox News Latino