What is it about?

Because U.S. immigration officials are concerned that undesirable immigrants will use ‘fake’ marriages simply to acquire citizenship, they require that “green card” petitioning couples demonstrate that their relationships are genuine (i.e., for love) and not "fraudulent" (i.e., for immigration papers). However, the requirements are vague and appear to be gender- and racially-neutral. Men and women U.S. petitioner often seek advice from other successful petitioners online to learn how they can provide evidence that will satisfy the government requirements. I examine how petitioners use their understanding of gender, family, and sexuality to describe the government’s requirements for a “real” marriage worthy of a “green card” and how they define “red-flag” indicators of marriage fraud.

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Why is it important?

I argue that the petitioners on the forum are not merely providing advice but are actually policing their peers’ cases long before an immigration officer does. Although policymakers do not disclose what constitutes proof of genuine or fraudulent relationships, petitioners provide their own definitions based on their understandings of “real” families consist of white, middle class, male breadwinner and a female caregiver and sexual double standards surrounding men and women’s sexual agency, fertility, and attractiveness. These findings show that virtual spaces are consequential for contesting and upholding gendered, racialized, and classed citizenship and belonging.


After the 2016 election, we saw how the virtual interactions of high-profile politicians, policymakers, and individuals shaped the political climate of and conversation within the rest of the country. Social mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Snapchat have been in the media spotlight for their role in shaping public political discourses. For me, this research is timely, because it throws into relief the long-term, multi-faceted, and deeply entrenched ways that the digital world through the interactions of everyday people, not merely high-profile figures, shape our understanding of citizenship, national belonging, and borders. Unlike the physically-situated world, given the structure of the internet data, social scientists can watch these interpretations and negotiations in real time. I hope you enjoy the article.

Dr Gina Marie Longo
University of Wisconsin System

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Keeping it in “the family”: How Gender Norms Shape U.S. Marriage Migration Politics, Gender & Society, May 2018, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0891243218777201.
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