Oregon's Dem. 'First Lady' Reveals She Received $5K to Illegally Wed 18-Yr-Old Immigrant

Oregon's Dem. 'First Lady' Reveals She Received $5K to Illegally Wed 18-Yr-Old Immigrant

On Thursday, Oregon’s first lady Cylvia Hayes, the fiancee of Democrat Gov. John Kitzhaber, revealed that she illegally married an 18-year-old Ethopian immigrant when she was 29 years of age in exchange for $5,000 so that the immigrant would not get deported.

“Seventeen years ago I made a serious mistake by committing an illegal act when I married a person so that he could retain residency in the United States. It was a marriage of convenience. He needed help and I needed financial support,” Hayes said of her “green-card marriage” to Abraham Abraham. “We met only a handful of times. We never lived together. I have not had any contact with him since the divorce finalized in 2002.”

According to KPTV (Fox 12 Oregon), “Hayes’ admission comes after the Willamette Week discovered she had been married and divorced three times–not two–and that the previously undisclosed third marriage was to Abraham.” Kitzhaber reportedly “did not know about the third marriage until Tuesday afternoon.” Her marriage with Abraham occurred “on July 19, 1997 in Washington state when Hayes was 29 years old, according to the Washington State Department of Health certificate of marriage.”

“My decision to marry illegally felt very, very distant and far removed from the life I was building. I was ashamed and embarrassed. Therefore I did not share this information even with John once we met and started dating,” Hayes said. “This is the most painful part for me. John Kitzhaber deserved to know the history of the person he was forming a relationship with. The fact that I did not disclose this to him meant that he has learned about this in the most public and unpleasant way. This is my greatest sorrow in this difficult situation.”

Kitzhaber, “who began an unprecedented third term as Oregon’s governor in 2011,” is “up for re-election in November and running against Republican candidate Dennis Richardson.”

KPTV noted that “immigrants can obtain citizenship in the U.S. through marriage, but the U.S. government doesn’t recognize relationships as marriages if the purpose is to evade U.S. immigration laws.” According to Willlamette Week, “federal law requires that the foreign national has been ‘living in marital union’ for three years” to begin his pathway to citizenship. A Portland immigration lawyer the outlet interviewed “says it is a federal crime for a U.S. citizen to enter into a marriage for the exclusive or overriding reason of obtaining immigration benefits.” 

Hayes said that she and Abraham “were both living in Washington” when she was “attending Evergreen State College, and we were introduced by mutual acquaintances” during a “difficult and unstable period in my life.”

“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,” she continued. “It was wrong then and it is wrong now and I am here today to accept the consequences, some of which will be life changing. And I cannot predict what direction this will go.”

She apologized to Kitzhaber and Oregonians and said she deeply regretted “not being right up front about the fact that I had made a serious mistake.” 

“I owe you all an apology,” she said. “But for the time being, there are more important issues. I need to take some personal time to reflect and address this difficult situation and to focus on my relationship with John.”

According to Willamette Week, four months after she divorced Abraham, “Hayes ran as a Democrat for the Oregon House of Representatives,” and “she lost the race to then-Rep. Ben Westlund (R-Bend).”


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