Oregon first lady admits previously undisclosed green card marriage

Cylvia Hayes is the fiancée of Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Story highlights

  • Oregon's first lady said she married an immigrant in exchange for money.
  • Cylvia Hayes said she agreed to the marriage in 1997 and got divorced in 2002.
  • Her longtime partner and fiancé, Gov. John Kitzhaber didn't know about it until this week.
  • U.S. Attorney's Office says "no comment" on whether Hayes will face charges.
The fiancée of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber confirmed Thursday she took part in an illegal marriage in exchange for money 17 years ago — a chapter in her life that her husband-to-be didn't know about until it came to light this week.
"This is the most painful part for me," Cylvia Hayes, 47, said in a news conference in Portland. "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."
Fraudulent green card marriages are a federal offense, but Hayes said she needed the money at the time, when she was 29. The two were married in Washington state.
"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," Hayes said in the news conference, which was recorded by CNN affiliate KPTV.
Asked if Hayes could face charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon gave CNN a firm, "No comment."
Kitzhaber is running for re-election next month, having already served three nonconsecutive terms. The Democrat was first elected in 1994 and remained in office until 2003. In 2010, he was elected to a third term, and he's now seeking a fourth in a race that he's expected to win. He won his last election with 65% of the vote.
While Kitzhaber and Hayes aren't married, they've been a couple for more than a decade and engaged since this summer, according to local news reports. Hayes has been officially referred to as Oregon's first lady during Kitzhaber's latest term.
The story became public after the Willamette Week local newspaper reported she had an undisclosed third marriage. Further digging into the marriage found that the groom was an 18-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, nearly a decade her junior.
Kitzhaber didn't find out about the marriage until Tuesday, Hayes said in the press conference.
"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," Hayes said.