Spewing outrageous fabrications, Dave Root’s op-ed (“Congress Sabotages International Marriage”) grossly mischaracterizes the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA). This common-sense, self-help law alerts foreign fiancé(e)s to violent criminal histories of their prospective American mates, and tells them how they can get help if they are abused, so they can keep themselves and their children safe from harm. IMBRA also prevents “mail-order bride” agencies from recruiting girls under 18; requires agencies to disclose whether an American client is a registered sex offender; and then to obtain a foreign recruit’s consent before releasing her contact information to a man who may, in fact, be a rapist or a child molester. IMBRA does not prevent anyone from marrying whomever they choose — it just enables informed choices to be made.

Far from the “Draconian” provisions Mr. Root alleges, these are reasonable — even modest — safeguards. In today’s world, criminal history disclosures are becoming commonplace — required when you apply for a job, an apartment, or a loan. U.S. immigration laws also already demand far more extensive and sensitive disclosures from foreign fiancé(e)s. And the foreign woman recruited by these agencies is typically much more susceptible to abuse than the girl next door — she can find herself alone and isolated here, with no family or friends to turn to if she is trapped in a violent marriage, speaking limited English and knowing nothing of her rights or resources available to help her, and dependent on her abusive American spouse for legal status and financial support. Sadly, abuse appears to be a far greater factor in all international marriages than in those “made in America.” Study results indicate immigrant victims suffer more severe abuse, more often, and that abuse rates in marriages between U.S. citizens and foreign women are approximately three times higher than in the general U.S. population. IMBRA simply tries to protect a particularly vulnerable group of foreign women from an avoidable tragic end.

And unfortunately, many of these “mail-order matches” do go horribly wrong.

In 1999 the INS concluded that there was “considerable” potential for abuse in such marriages, and “numerous opportunities for exploitation;” it also indicated that “mail-order brides may become victims of international trafficking in women and girls.”

Through the Tahirih Justice Center’s own work with battered immigrant women and through information shared with us by our colleague service-providers nationwide, we have learned about hundreds of cases of brutal abuse and exploitation (including the molestation of children of “mail-order brides”), and at least a dozen murders or attempted murders. Given the underreporting of domestic violence generally (an estimated 75 percent of physical assaults go unreported), and the additional reporting barriers immigrant women face, we fear we are only seeing the tip of a terrible iceberg.

Mr. Root alleges “the largest international dating agencies” were “suspicious(ly)” exempted from IMBRA’s regulations. But the lines IMBRA draws between different types of agencies are distinctions with a principled difference. Speaking about “mail-order bride” agencies in which Western men pay for access to women typically from developing countries, the 1999 INS report voiced the concern that “These are relationships fostered by for-profit enterprises, where the balance of power between the two individuals is skewed to empower the male client who may be seen as ‘purchasing’ a bride….” That troubling dynamic simply doesn’t exist in other online dating services in which both men and women, from whatever country, are charged and treated the same.

Finally, IMBRA was not an “extreme feminist” conspiracy resisted by “most legislators.” Three of IMBRA’s four lead co-sponsors were men (Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.); Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.); and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). And IMBRA enjoyed widespread bipartisan support at each of the several legislative hurdles it had to pass before enactment.

Mr. Root contends IMBRA was passed “while we weren’t looking.” It is abundantly clear that he hasn’t been looking — that just as the “mail-order bride” industry has done for years, he has turned a blind and self-serving eye to overwhelming evidence of an appalling problem.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Tags

Trending Video