Two months after teenager Diane McMillan settled in the United States as a married woman, it is still unclear how she managed to get into the country and marry her cult leader husband, Amadon, within two days of setting foot on American soil.
According to US immigration law, one is forbidden to marry a US citizen within two days of entering the country. When this occurs, it constitutes a marriage of convenience. Although immigration officials placed Diane under arrest for not having a work permit, they did not question her about her sudden marriage to Amadon.
The website of the US embassy in South Africa advises that young visa applicants would be questioned about their “specific intentions, family situations and long-term plans and prospects within his or her country of residence”.
The McMillans had earlier confirmed that Diane had intended to return home at the end of April. However, Diane’s father Ian said it was very possible his daughter had lied on her application.
“When she first arrived in the US, she said she would be coming home. She must have obtained a tourist visa because she obviously lied on her application. I don’t think it would have been approved if she had said she was going there to marry a man she’d never met,” said Ian.
Niels Frenzen, a clinical associate professor of law at the University of Southern California, said there are individuals who receive tourist or other types of visas when one would have anticipated the visa would be denied.
“It is certainly possible the girl could have applied for and obtained a visa to come to the US as a tourist. This possibility would be more likely if there was someone in the US who wrote a letter on her behalf, inviting her to come there for some purpose, such as a visit or to attend some type of educational programme,” he said.
Frenzen said the other possibility was fraud. “There are obviously many people who obtain fraudulent visas and travel documents through human smuggling operations.
And then there is also some level of fraud that occurs within some US consulates when employees sell legitimate visas to people who are willing to pay or bribe the official.”
Commenting on Diane’s arrest, Frenzen said that when a person is arrested by immigration authorities in the US, in most situations that person is entitled to a hearing in front of an immigration judge. Immigration charges are made by a civil prosecutor from the department of homeland security’s immigration and customs enforcement agency (ICE).
“ICE will charge a person with such things as entering the US with a false visa or false passport, or working without proper authorisation, or overstaying the terms of a non-immigrant visa.
The immigration judge will conduct what is known as a removal hearing to determine whether that person should be deported or allowed to remain in the country.
“Such hearings are typically short – an hour or two. The person under removal proceedings is entitled to delay the hearing to look for a lawyer to assist them or to explore the possibility of seeking some form of relief from removal, such as a claim to permanent resident status based on a marriage to a US citizen, or political asylum (refugee) status, among other things.”
While these proceedings are underway, Frenzen said, the person is often allowed to be released from ICE custody on an immigration bond.
“So it is possible that (Diane) is indeed under removal proceedings, but has been released on bond while the proceedings go forward.”