Polygamy, Practiced in Secrecy, Follows Africans to New York

Thousands of New York’s African immigrants are thought to be practicing polygamy as they did in their native countries, where it is legal; practice is clandestine because polygamy is grounds for exclusion from US under immigration law; no agency is known to collect data on polygamous unions, and many agencies that deal with immigrant families in New York have adopted don’t-ask-don’t-know policy; some men have one wife in US and others abroad; Islam is often cited as authority that allows polygamy, but practice is cultural tradition in Africa that crosses religious lines, and some Muslim lands elsewhere sharply restrict it; some African immigrant women speak bitterly of polygamy, saying they had no choice but to accept their husband’s other wives; many women accept situation, fearing to expose their husbands to arrest or deportation; presence of polygamy in New York was revealed after March 7 fire in Bronx that killed woman and nine children in two families from Mali.