A former state lawmaker accused of buying an $8,000 sham marriage to gain citizenship was sentenced Friday to a year in prison by a judge who said pursuit of the American dream was a poor excuse for her actions.
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ignored requests for leniency so that 47-year-old Gabriela Rosa, a native of the Dominican Republic, could care for her son and her mother.
The judge said she found "troubling" suggestions that Rosa was merely naive or was following the American dream when she falsely married a U.S. citizen and then lied about it to become a citizen in 2005.
Rosa's lawyer, Genesis A. Peduto, told the judge her client got married to obtain a green card 20 years ago when she was following the American dream and "looking for a better life."
"Are you suggesting that committing marriage fraud, which in this case meant paying $8,000 to another person and lying to immigration officials for years, is the American dream?" the judge asked.
"Not at all, your honor," Peduto responded. "She is very remorseful for what she did and has accepted responsibility for what she has done."
Rosa pleaded guilty in June, admitting that she lied to immigration authorities about her marriage.
Given a chance to speak, Rosa requested leniency so she could continue to care for her 16-year-old son and her mother.
"I want to express to you how deeply I regret offenses that I made, the mistakes that I made, the bad choices that I made," she said.
The federal Probation Department recommended no prison sentence, but Cote disagreed, saying written submissions on Rosa's behalf included "very troubling suggestions" that the crime resulted in part because Rosa was following the American dream.
She said the suggestions were a "disservice to all our immigrants who actually try to follow the law and gain citizenship legitimately."
Rosa, a Democrat, was elected in 2012 to represent Upper Manhattan in the Assembly. She resigned in June.
She moved to New York in 1994.