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Not coming to America

By: Heath Hamacher//February 24, 2016

Not coming to America

By: Heath Hamacher//February 24, 2016

Plaintiff Birtuengida Abebe is upset that his Ethiopian wife and her son aren’t being allowed to join him here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Problem is, from the government’s standpoint, she’s not really his wife.

According to a recent District Court opinion, Abebe is trying to compel officials to approve the immigrant visa for Selamawit Zewdu, the purported love of his life. In 2014, Zewdu interviewed with an officer of the U.S. Consulate in Ethiopia but failed to convince him that she was actually Mrs. Abebe.

The officer denied the visa application but invited Zewdu to return with additional evidence supporting her claim. Return, she did, and refused again, she was. According to the Consulate, Zewdu failed to “establish convincing evidence of a legitimate relationship with the petitioner.”

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services revoked the visa petition in the absence of a “bona fide marriage.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Zewdu was unable to describe a courtship with her “husband” beyond the 15 days prior to the wedding, could provide photographs taken only on her wedding day, had no real idea where Abebe worked or what he did for a living, and offered no convincing evidence that the couple—or pair, as the case may be—had any post-marital contact.

The department, according to court documents, detailed how Abebe could submit additional evidence to overcome the Consular’s findings, but he “chose not to avail himself to this process.”

According to the lawsuit, Abebe alleges violations of his constitutional rights but the court held that DHS’s efforts in citing the statute upon which the refusal was based and offering remedies show that Abebe’s due process was satisfied, even if he wasn’t.

Consular decisions regarding immigrant visas are typically not subject to judicial review unless, as here, a violation of constitutional rights is alleged.

But, the court noted, a “facially legitimate and bona fide” reason for the refusal means that there’s no need for the court to “look behind the exercise of [the consular officer’s] discretion.”

Abebe’s attorney, Mark Devine of Charleston, did not return a message seeking comment but a blog entry on says that a ceremony does not a legal marriage make.

“If the couple doesn’t intend to establish a life together,” the blog states, “their marriage is a sham.”

Sidebar isn’t speculating on the merits of this relationship, but just notes that marriage is tough enough without fraudulent elements from the get-go.

Not to mention the possibility of felony charges. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot.

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