California federal court: "fraud is not a defense to the I-864."

A federal district court in California has issued an important ruling in an I-864 enforcement case brought by Immigration Support Advocates. In a five-page ruling issued today, the Court held that the defendant could not avoid his I-864 support obligation by arguing that he was fraudulently induced to marry his wife. (Download the decision). 

The ruling states in part:

Fraud in the inducement cannot be a defense to an I-864 enforcement action.  Permitting a sponsor to evade his support obligation by asserting a defense of fraud in the inducement is inconsistent with the purpose of the I-864 requirement, because it would place lawful permanent residents at risk of becoming dependent on the government for subsistence.  The statute and implementing regulations show that the purpose of the support obligation is to ensure that family-sponsored immigrants do not become a "public charge."  8 U.S.C. § 1183a. The support obligation terminates only after the immigrant has obtained citizenship or circumstances have changed such that the immigrant no longer requires support.  See 8 C.F.R. § 213a.2(e) [...].  Furthermore, the support obligation cannot be disavowed unless the sponsor submits the disavowal in writing "before the decision on the adjustment application."  Id. § 213a.2(f).  A Congressional committee report describes the affidavit support requirement as a plan to "discourage[e] welfare-based immigration" and "to provide for the economic well-being of the members [that families] bring into the United States."  H. Comm. On Budget, Welfare and Medicaid Reform Act of 1996, H.R. Rep. 104-651, at 6 (1996).  It also explains that the sponsorship agreement "would be made legally binding and would apply until the immigrant becomes a citizen."  Id. at 1327.  These requirements, and this history, show that the support obligation, once undertaken, cannot be excused unless there is no longer a risk that the I-864 beneficiary will become a public charge.  

This important ruling means that a sponsor cannot avoid his obligation by raising arguments about the immigrant's subjective intentions in getting married. The decision will make it easier for immigrants to move their cases to completion and get the support needed to build self-sufficient lives. 

This victory was due to the outstanding efforts of local California co-counsel Jody Winters, along with Jennifer Panicker.