"Return to Sender:" New Mail Order Bride Law Imposes Tough New Abuse Protections for Brides, But Probably Violates Basic Rights of Privacy and Free Speech

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U.S. Congress passes a new "Mail Order Bride" Law on International Marriage Brokers which seeks to provide abuse protection for immigrant women. However, the law's requirements on U.S. citizen men to provide extensive background and criminal information just to simply communicate with a potential foreign bride is probably an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and free speech.

The U.S. Congress last month passed tough new conditions on U.S. men who seek a romance partner abroad through dating services. The new mail order bride law, called "International Marriage Broker Regulation Act" or IMBRA for short, was enacted in response to the death cases of two immigrant women in Washington State who were abused and murdered by their American citizen husbands. IMBRA was quietly inserted onto the back of the widely-applauded Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to help prevent domestic violence, and will go into effect March 06, 2006.

This new law requires any U.S. mail order bride company, now called an "International Marriage Broker" or IMB for short, to FIRST secure from any gentleman customer extensive background information such as criminal and domestic violence history, and provide a copy of this to the foreign lady client in her native language and obtain a signed, written consent as to that specific man from her BEFORE the couple even communicate. There are stiff penalties on the IMB mail order company for any violations of these requirements, including up to $25,000 civil fine and up to 5 years in federal prison.

The proponents of this law, notably Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), argued that this would force full disclosure of men's violent records, if any, and enable the foreign lady customers of IMB mail order companies, which they say range up to 5000 with some charging hefty fees, to decide for themselves if they want to communicate and marry these men.

While the purpose of this new law is indeed laudable, it will actually cause much MORE HARM THAN GOOD for all concerned and is both UNNECESSARY and probably UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

1) The law will "CHILL" the FREE SPEECH rights of U.S. citizen men, operating as a "PRIOR RESTRAINT" on their basic First Amendment rights to even say "Hi" to a lady abroad. And the forced disclosure of personal information and documents to total strangers such as IMB mail order company employees and foreign women simply to communicate is a gross VIOLATION OF PRIVACY RIGHTS. Wendy McElroy, in her "iFeminist" Op-Ed piece for Fox News last month, insightfully remarked that this law "brands all American men as abusers", declaring that now "the 'Ugly American' has become an article of federal law, supported by Congress".

2) Most IMB mail order companies work with hundreds and even thousands of U.S. men and foreign women, thus making the onerous COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS for individual signed releases IMPOSSIBLE TO MEET. Many such companies will be forced out of business, move offshore or go underground. Many foreign women, who know that there are thousands of happy marriages across the U.S. and some even among their family and friends, would thus actually have fewer romance options with American men and probably be less well protected from potential abuse.

3) Existing law, which is expanded on by this law, fully protects foreign women from potential abuse anyway in the VISA PETITION PROCESS: The foreign woman is provided domestic violence information on her rights, and supplied with the man's background documents in her language by the Embassy Officer BEFORE she secures a visa to enter the U.S. to see her gentleman suitor.

About Gary Bala:

Mr. Bala, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Assn. (AILA) with 24+ years of legal experience, has completed hundreds of family cases, fiancée visas, spousal petitions and consultations. His office is in Pennsylvania.

Blog Article: "The Backdoor Law That Sabotages International Romance" http://usaimmigrationattorney.com/nucleus/index

Electronic Petition to Congress: "Repeal the International Marriage Broker Law" http://new.petitiononline.com/imbra05/petition.html


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