The city clerk yesterday said law enforcement agents will continue to check for fraud among immigrants seeking to get married even as critics said the officers’ presence intimidates brides and grooms.
City Clerk Carlos Cuevas requested police support last month when city marriage offices overflowed with couples hoping to wed before immigration reforms go into effect April 1.
Yesterday, he said he will follow guidelines issued by city Corporation Counsel Paul Crotty, which allow immigrants to get married without valid visas but also support the use of cops.
In a letter Friday to First Deputy City Clerk Raymond Teatum, Crotty put to rest immigrants’ fears they needed valid visas to marry in the city. Any form of identification will do, Crotty said.
But the corporation counsel raised the specter of city employees turning immigrants away if they deem the marriage a sham.
“You are entitled to be vigilant of the use of false documents,” he said.
“The involvement of the Police Department and other law enforcement authorities in this effort is entirely appropriate and should be continued,” he wrote.
Cuevas said yesterday he had not yet seen Crotty’s letter. He said that cops from the police anti-fraud unit, along with Immigration and Naturalization officers, will continue to look over documents that people present for identification.
“Anyone that is proper and is not doing anything against the law should certainly not be intimidated by police. It is not my purpose,” he said.
But Norman Siegel, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called on Cuevas to remove the officers.
He said they are “a chilling and intimidating presence” to immigrants.
“How is the clerk going to know when two people come up to the desk that this is a sham marriage or not? You won’t know that until months later,” Siegel said.
Mayor Giuliani said Friday that the city clerk’s office has the right and the responsibility to make sure it is not being used to perpetrate a fraud.
Giuliani said a marriage is obviously a sham when the same person shows up with 10 different couples.
That person, more than likely, is a marriage broker taking advantage of desperate immigrants, the mayor said.
“If somebody is paying a broker for a marriage, $5,000, $10,000, that’s not something you should encourage or allow to have happen,” Giuliani said.
Cuevas said his only concern now is how to speed up the line at a time when his office’s caseload has quadrupled while he contends with an antiquated computer system and a budget that has been cut 41% over three years.