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There was a recent federal Court of Appeals decision for the 11th Circuit (this court covers Florida, Alabama and Georgia) that discusses the defenses for private I-864 enforcement actions. The court essentially determined that NO traditional common law defenses exist. That means that “unclean hands” (i.e., acting badly or lying), causing the marriage to fail, or some other knock against the immigrant beneficiary are all irrelevant. The sponsor owes the sponsored immigrant financial support until the obligation is terminated or ends by one of 5 very specific terminating events spelled out in the I-864, Affidavit of Support, itself. Nothing else ends the financial obligation.
This is an area of federal immigration litigation that does not get much attention. It should probably get more because these lawsuits are sticking and the financial impact on the parties can be significant. Immigrant sponsors should know about this before signing an I-864 affidavit of support. At the same time, green card holding beneficiaries should also know they have this privately enforceable right to fall back on in the event they are financially abandoned post separation.
It should be noted that the conduct the immigrant was accused of in this case was truly horrific. We would not take this case. If the allegations are true, he could not be a more unsympathetic or a less deserving person. Even with this in mind, the Court still determined he was entitled to financial support. You can read the full decision here.