Cylvia Hayes, the fiancee of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), has admitted that she married an Ethiopian immigrant in 1997, in exchange for money, so that he could obtain a green card.
The Oregonian reported that Hayes, who was 29 at the time, acknowledged that she married 18-year-old Abraham B. Abraham in 1997. Their marriage allowed Abraham to secure his residency in the United States, the newspaper reported.
Hayes, who was introduced to Abraham by mutual acquaintances, was paid $5,000 for the deal. She used it to pay for a laptop and school — she was a student at Evergreen State College in Washington at the time, according to the Oregonian.
“It was a marriage of convenience,” Hayes said in a Thursday statement. “He needed help, and I needed financial support.”
Kitzhaber, 67, and Hayes have been in a relationship for 10 years and got engaged this summer. Hayes and Abraham met only a few times, never lived together and divorced in 2001.
The Oregonian interviewed an attorney who said that a fraudulent marriage could be grounds for civil and criminal charges, though the statute of limitations for criminal charges is five years from the date of the marriage.
Hayes said Thursday she would accept any consequences from her “illegal act.”
“This was a difficult and unstable period in my life,” Hayes said. “I want to be clear today — I was associating with the wrong people. I was struggling to put myself through college and was offered money in exchange for marrying a young person who had a chance to get a college degree himself if he were able to remain in the United States.”
According to the Oregonian, Hayes has previously said she had been on her own since age 16, as her parents struggled with mental illness and alcoholism. She went on to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Evergreen State.
Abraham later graduated from Greensboro College in North Carolina, the newspaper reported, and now lives in Washington, D.C.