Sunday, August 25, 2019

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Article Index

B. International Marriage Brokers

There are nearly 500 IMBs operating in the United States. According to a 1998 study commissioned by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the number of mail-order marriages range from 4,000 to 6,000 a year.

The IMB's websites contain the names, contact information, biographical information, and pictures of the prospective brides. Women undergo an initial screening process and then brokers select the women who will appear on the website. Men must purchase information from the IMB to contact any women whom they want to meet. IMBs may also offer customers guided tours to a foreign country to meet women.

The INS concluded that there was considerable potential for abuse in such marriages and that mail-order brides might become victims of international trafficking. Study results showed that immigrant women suffer more severe abuse, at rates that are about three times higher than in the general U.S. population. Tahirih Justice Center, an immigrant women's organization, claims that a foreign woman recruited by IMBs is more susceptive to abuse because she lacks the opportunity to get to know her potential spouse, she may speak limited English, and she may not know about rights in the United States or the resources available. Additional potential for abuse arises because men who use IMBs may have expectations of docile, subservient, or submissive women. While there is no national statistic reflecting prevalence of abuse in brokered marriages, one study showed that in 2005, convicted sex offenders filed 91 fiancée visa petitions. It was as a result of the potential for abuse in these marriages that Congress decided to regulate IMBs.

A counter-argument claims that no concrete data exists proving that such unions are more likely to result in domestic violence or homicide than other marriages. According to a 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1,300 women die as a result of intimate partner violence each year in the United States. However, since 1993 there were only three reported cases of women married to American citizens through IMBs who died as a result of domestic violence. Those marriages arranged through IMBs each year account for only 0.004 percent of all marriages in the U.S. Some argue that because a very limited amount of data exists on domestic violence in IMB-arranged marriages, the requirements of IMBRA are unjustified and disproportionate to the actual problem of abuse.

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Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

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