Renee J. Tello Legal Blog

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Love, Hip Hop… and Immigration Marriage Fraud?

Online media outlets are buzzing with rumors that reality television star Amina Buddafly was allegedly deported due to immigration marriage fraud. The rumors are likely stemming from the recent storyline on VH1’s popular reality series Love and Hip Hop New York.

Reality television fans are likely very familiar with the popular VH1 series Love and Hip Hop New York. However, for those of you that are not familiar with the show I will give a bit of background. The show features hip hop artists and their love interests, and chronicles their professional and personal lives with high dramatics, and some would argue, pre-scripted content. This season of Love and Hip Hop New York premiered with several new recurring characters, most relevant Amina Buddafly and Peter Gunz. In the early episodes of this season it is revealed that Amina Buddafly and Peter Gunz are in fact married, despite his longtime relationship with the mother of his children. According to Amina Buddafly's VH1 biography, she was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Even more interesting, the biography describes Amina Buddafly’s immigration to the United States saying “In 2002, Black Buddafly took a leap of faith and without a plan, packed their bags and flew to New York City with nothing but $$600 and a dream. Leaving everything behind in Germany, they had no ‘choyce’ but to make it in America.”

According to one online report, in 2011 Amina Buddafly allegedly posted on an immigration forum that she was refused entry into the United States for violating the terms of her entry on the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of designated countries, including Germany, to enter the United States without a visa for a period of 90 days for the purpose of business or pleasure. So given the Love and Hip Hop storyline and Amina Buddafly’s immigrant status, speculation is rampant regarding the reasons behind her marriage to Peter Gunz and whether the marriage was based on Amina Buddafly’s need to obtain a green card in the United States. In an interview with Power 105.1 Peter Gunz denied the allegations and claimed that he married Amina Buddafly for love.

Let’s make two things clear, first, Amina Buddafly’s immigration status has not been revealed; and second, there no confirmation that she has been deported for any reason. Nevertheless, this very salacious tale sheds light on an issue that is widely pervasive in the U.S. immigration - marriage fraud. Many immigrants are desperate to obtain legal immigration status in the United States and some do marry U.S. citizens for the sole purpose of obtaining permanent residence (i.e. a green card). However, there are serious civil and criminal consequences for engaging in immigration marriage fraud. By law persons who have entered into marriages, for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit, face fines of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison.

It is also important to note that there are nonimmigrant visa categories that entertainers with demonstrated talent and international recognition can take advantage of, most notably the P-1 and O-1 visas. Moreover, the fact that Amina Buddafly is a talented musician who is a reoccurring cast member of a nationally syndicated television series leads me to question the rumors of her alleged deportation; as she may have been able to obtain legal status by obtaining a valid nonimmigrant visa. Nonetheless it remains to be seen if the rumors will be addressed in the dramatic Love and Hip Hop New York storyline or reunion show.


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