US has signed off on thousands of child bride requests
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The State Department has approved thousands of requests made by older men to bring child or adolescent brides to the country in the past decade, according to an Associated Press report published Friday and based on government data.

The State Department approved 5,556 requests made from adults who were looking to bring minor spouses or fiancées to the United States and 2,926 requests made by minors that were seeking to have older spouses brought in. The agency also reportedly approved 204 requests made by minors seeking to bring in spouses who were also minors.

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the first step for consideration of petitions for spouses or fiancées. The USCIS weighs the petitions by whether the marriage is legal in the home country where the spouse resides and in the state where the petitioner resides, the AP reported. 

Data gathered by the news agency revealed that in the majority of cases, girls were the youngest in the relationship. In nearly 150 cases, the man seeking to bring minor spouses or fiancées to the U.S. was over the age of 40.

In one case from 2011, a 14-year-old residing in the U.S. requested that the State Department allow a 48-year-old spouse to enter the country from Jamaica. The request was approved by immigration officials. It did not indicate the genders of the two people.

There were over 5,000 cases in which adults also reportedly petitioned on behalf minors. 

The most requests came from Mexico, Pakistan, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and Yemen, while Middle Eastern nationals reportedly had the highest percentage of approved petitions overall.

Some lawmakers, including Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBarr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems Trump Jr. subpoena spotlights GOP split over Russia probes MORE (R-Wis.), said the numbers indicate “a loophole that we need to close.” 

Johnson, who requested data on child bride requests along with then-Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate MORE (D-Mo.) in 2017, called for a better system to track and vet petitions after it took them more than a year to get the information they requested around the time.

"Our immigration system may unintentionally shield the abuse of women and children," the senators also reportedly said in a letter at the time.