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.

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