On 5 January 2006, President Bush signed into a law a historic bill that provides foreign women critical information to protect themselves from violent abuse by men they meet through international marriage brokers (IMBs) (commonly referred to as "mail-order bride" agencies).
The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA), introduced by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) last Fall, was attached to the bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (HR 3402) that passed the Senate and House in December. IMBRA is a bipartisan, common sense bill that provides foreign women with information about the violent criminal history of their prospective American husbands, as well as about the rights and resources available to domestic violence victims in the United States. Through this law, foreign women will be given critical tools to protect themselves and their children from domestic violence.
The IMB industry has grown rapidly in response to increasing demand by some American men for foreign "subservient" wives. It is estimated that between 9,500 and 14,500 foreign fiancées enter the US every year as a result of IMB matches. The marketing practices of many IMBs attract predatory abusers with a history of violence against women and children. IMBs charge their American male clients significant fees to meet foreign women from developing countries who often are depicted as submissive and obedient. IMBs often market women as merchandise, with "satisfaction guaranteed" promises to their paying male clients and so-called "romance tours" that may herd several hundred women at a time to meet a dozen men. Also, agencies do not screen their male clients for violent histories, may repeatedly pair new women recruits with violent men, and frequently fail to advise - and may even mislead - women about what they can do to escape abuse.
As a consequence, foreign women and their children are being abused, sometimes murdered, by the men they meet through IMBs. The murders of Alla Barney in New Jersey (stabbed to death by her American husband in the parking lot of a Kindercare) and Susana Blackwell in Washington State (several months pregnant, she and two of her friends were shot to death in a courthouse by her American husband) underscore the urgent need for greater protection for foreign women who meet American men through this industry.
"The passage of IMBRA is a historic step towards protecting the thousands of foreign women who each year fall prey to predatory abusers who use IMBs to find their next victims." Said Layli Miller-Muro, Executive Director of the Tahirih Justice Center, which assisted in developing the legislation.
Through direct legal services and public policy advocacy, the Tahirih Justice Center works to protect immigrant women and girls seeking justice in the United States from gender-based violence.
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