November 01, 2007

The Opposite of a Mail-Order Bride (IMBRA)

by PG

The potential problems raised by the information asymmetry implicit in the international marriage broker business have received sufficient attention that the industry is now regulated by the IMBRA of 2005, which requires these services to disclose American clients' sex offender status to prospective foreign spouses before allowing the former to contact the latter. The services also are supposed to collect American clients' criminal and marital histories, but are not required to search for this proactively, and can rely on the clients' own representations. As revealed by the first hits when you Google "IMBRA," the law has many enemies, most obviously the marriage broker companies and the users of their services. Michael Schmitt (aka michaellovesnyc) even started a website (imbra.org) and was pulled into a Wikipedia edit war over his claim that the law is killing Russian women because it impedes them from marrying Americans, which is necessary because of the shortage of Russian men and Russian men's propensity toward abuse. The only area of agreement I could find with Mr. Schmitt is that the government oughtn't make inflated claims about the level of human trafficking occurring in the U.S., and shouldn't hand out funding to organizations based on such hyping.

TIME magazine highlights what might be considered the reverse of a mail-order bride problem: the leave-her-abroad problem. The ills that IMBRA addresses occur when Americans bring foreigners to the U.S. as fiance(e)s, and then either don't marry them here (which makes the foreigners subject to deportation) or marry them and then abuse them. Moreover, the stereotypical mail order bride is assumed to be of a different culture than her husband, and to be particularly vulnerable because of her unfamiliarity with American law and custom. In contrast, the article focuses on immigrant men who travel back to their country of origin, marry in that nation, and then fail to arrange for their brides' arrival in their adopted country. In India, this has been a concern in both the Hindu (driven by the desire to pick up a dowry without having to bring home a wife) and Muslim (often emigrant workers to the Middle East) communities.

One way to deter such abandonments would be for the Indian government to punish marriage fraud domestically with imprisonment for a year and a day, which would subsume the offense under the existing extradition treaty with the U.S. instead of requiring a new treaty or amendment for this particular crime. Given the harm done to such abandoned wives and their families -- although because dowry payments are technically illegal, such monies have to be treated as gifts with no marital strings attached -- 366 days in prison doesn't strike me as an excessive punishment.

November 1, 2007 06:21 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Your research about IMBRA was apparently cursory. So much so that you state that IMBRA is about disclosure of "American clients' sex offender status to prospective foreign spouses before allowing the former to contact the latter."

In fact, IMBRA prohibits all Americans from COMMUNICATING with foreigners who have posted their profiles on a dating site unless the American submits to a sex offender search and provides a certification of intimate details of his life going back to age 18. This must be done BEFORE any communication can occur. I thought I read in the "About" section that one of the bloggers who runs this site is an expert in Constitutional law. Could you please opine on the Constitutionality of prohibiting communication between adults?

Back to your quote and your belief that if a foreigner posts her profile on the internet, she wants to get married. So much for checking the boxes "dating", "friendship", or "pen-pal". I guess you just don't believe that a foreign woman wants anything less than marriage to an American. This sort of dovetails into your denigrating description of any foreign woman who posts her profile on a dating site as a "mail order bride". Tell me, would you call an American woman who posts on a Canadian or British site a "mail order bride" or is this insulting term something you just reserve for lowly foreigners?

The second thing that strikes me (and saddens me) about this blog post is that you mention googling and finding some obscure website attacking the law, and use up your blog space addressing this person's bizarre fight on Wikipedia. But if you googled IMBRA you might have found my website, where I take on those who use deceptive, misleading and ethnocentric descriptions of international dating and who put down women not born in the United States.

www.onlinedatingrights.com

Mine has members who are journalists, academics, politicians, authors and ordinary men and women.

One more thing. You mentioned that the enemies of IMBRA are (1) dating site owners which you call marriage brokers (do you call Match.com a marriage broker, too?) and (2) users of their services. Well I have news for you. I am neither. I am a lawyer who married a chemical engineer and international energy consultant from another part of the world. Both I and my wife are appalled by the ignorance that surrounds this law and the kneejerk reactions to it by intelligent people who should know better.

Posted by: Tristan Laurent at November 1, 2007 10:32 PM

Tristan:

While I'm sure that you and your wife are a happy pair, you certainly have a knack for dyspeptic blog posts. Go get a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and cogitate on this:

a) PG didn't call them "marriage brokers." IMBRA stands for "International Marriage Broker Regulation Act." Does that mean Match.com is a marriage broker? Perhaps: go ask Congress. (If you take the international elements out of the definition in IMBRA, the answer would be yes. Who cares?) But in the meantime, you might get off your high horse a little.

b) IMBRA does not "prohibit[] all Americans from COMMUNICATING with foreigners who have posted their profiles on a dating site unless the American submits to a sex offender search and provides a certification of intimate details of his life going back to age 18." Let me give you an example. I have several female English friends. If one of them posts to an online dating site, I can still email her without having to disclose to anyone a certification of my intimate details. Her email address does not immediately become unworkable to me.

What IMBRA regulates is the ability of commercial websites to disclose information about foreign women. That's an entirely different matter, with different constitutional implications. Commercial speech is regulated differently, and if you believe there's a Con Law problem here, well, I look forward to reading your brief when you go before the Court. As a helpful hint, don't misrepresent the question presented.

I thought I read in the "About" section that one of the bloggers who runs this site is an expert in Constitutional law.
c) I don't know: you can read the about us page and quote it if you see anyone making a claim of expertise. I didn't, but then, I like to read what my opposition writes before I unload a SnarkGun(TM).

But if you googled IMBRA you might have found my website, where I take on those who use deceptive, misleading and ethnocentric descriptions of international dating and who put down women not born in the United States.
It's too bad that PG hurt your feelings, but you know, it's not incumbent on a blogger to cite you if she doesn't want to. Having taken a look at your site, it makes my head hurt. Lots of "draconian" this and "knee-jerk feminist" that, apparently typed on a computer with a stuck CAPS LOCK key. (Yes, I know, it's a style-sheet thing, and you meant it that way. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.) And the site indulges in the kind of pettifoggery that I complained about earlier. For instance:
IMBRA criminalizes American men (and women) who meet foreign women (and men) via the internet.
I just read through the bill, and unless there's an enforcement provision I'm missing, it does no such thing. Care to enlighten me?

Or might you understand why a serious legal thinker might give your ALL CAPS RANTING a miss?

Posted by: Anon at November 1, 2007 11:40 PM

"What IMBRA regulates is the ability of commercial websites to disclose information about foreign women. That's an entirely different matter, with different constitutional implications. Commercial speech is regulated differently, and if you believe there's a Con Law problem here, well, I look forward to reading your brief when you go before the Court. As a helpful hint, don't misrepresent the question presented." - Anon

The “mail-order bride” is the commodity in this argument isn’t it? IMBRA doesn’t regulate how her information is presented. The law doesn’t even regulate the agency. It forces agencies to do background checks on their clients before they can sell them the contact information of the “mail-order bride” (which I assume is the commodity in the argument). That information is to be given to the so-called “commodity”. Is there a precedent for this in commercial law? You regulate a business by doing background checks on its customers?

Posted by: Willoughby at November 2, 2007 06:31 AM

There is no need for me to respond to the complaints about the amount of capital letters used on my website. I will, however, respond to substantive issues raised.

The dating company is required to collect "background information" from the US customer before it can allow the customer to contact the foreigner in its database. It has to get this information from the customer. So if the customer does not give it, he cannot communicate.
COLLECTION OF BACKGROUND INFORMATION.— Each international marriage broker shall also collect the background information listed in subparagraph (B) about the United States client to whom the personal contact information of a foreign national client would be provided.

Stating that you can physically write to a British woman on a dating site and then using that to suggest that the law does not prevent this doesn't make any sense. There is also a law against killing a person but you can still buy a gun and shoot me. That doesn't make killing legal, and neither does writing to a British woman make this sort of communication legal.

Moreover, if you meet that woman and decide to marry her you will be in for a big surprise when her visa is denied because you didn't comply with IMBRA as she is required to tell the interviewer if she met through an "international marriage broker" and whether that company complied with IMBRA. So your fiance should also be an accountantant (to do an audit on the company to determine if more than 50% of their business is abroad and are thus defined as an IMB) and a lawyer (to determine whether all elements of IMBRA were complied with) since DHS does not provide a listing of IMBs to the public.

Or suppose you met this woman on Match.com last year, when they weren't considered to be an IMB, but maybe this year an intern at DHS paid for by Tahirih Justice Center, a feminist group that just got $1M from Congress to help enforce the law, did an internet survey and decided that Match now has more than 50% foreign members so a memo is sent to the consulates and your fiance is denied a visa because Match is now an IMB.

Posted by: Tristan Laurent at November 2, 2007 09:52 AM

Willoughby,

The mail order bride is not a commodity. What is at issue in the law is not the person, but that's person's contact information. I am sure that you are familiar with the concept of such information being a commodity; cf. antispam, "do not call" and privacy laws that govern the sale and use of consumers' contact information.

"You regulate a business by doing background checks on its customers?"

See background checks on prospective gun buyers. You may not agree with them, but they have been part of the regulation of gun sales for some time now.

Mr. Laurent,

I think you misunderstood Anon's example. He was pointing out that if you are capable of meeting foreign women through a venue other than a dating service -- say, you met one through an online discussion board about Chinese food -- the fact that she may also be registered on a dating site doesn't prevent you from contacting her at all. She can independently choose to send you her contact information; no one can prevent her from doing that. It is not against the law to communicate with foreigners without submitting one's criminal and marital history; it is only against the law for a dating service to hand out foreigners' contact information to Americans without the service checking the American's name against the sex offender registry, and then getting the American to self-report criminal and marital history. In the U.S., checking such history is considered good practice for dating services (see True.com, state legislation proposed to mandate such checks for all dating sites).

The legislation clearly regulates the services, not the clients. Note that the only penalties mentioned in the law are imposed on the services (see Sec. 833(d)(5)). There is no mention in the text of the legislation about penalties for someone who lies to the dating service in providing his background information.

Kindly note the exact location of the part that would result in someone's being denied a visa because she used an IMB that failed to comply with the law. Sec. 833(5)(b)(1)(C) says
"FIANCE(E)S, SPOUSES AND THEIR DERIVATIVES.—During an interview with an applicant for a K nonimmigrant visa, a consular officers shall ... ask the applicant, in the primary language of the applicant, whether an international marriage broker has facilitated the relationship between the applicant and the United States petitioner, and, if so, obtain the identity of the international marriage broker from the applicant and confirm that the international marriage broker provided to the applicant the information and materials required under subsection (d)(3)(A)(iii)."

I don't see a single mention in there of denying someone a visa if she doesn't know whether or not the dating service through which she met you complied with IMBRA. The obvious course of conversation is:

CONSULAR OFFICER: And how did you meet?
IMMIGRANT: Through nerve.com's dating service.
CONSULAR OFFICER (who has never heard of nerve.com): Did nerve.com give you the following information about your fiance? Sex offender status, criminal background check, marital history.
IMMIGRANT: No.
[CONSULAR OFFICER makes note of this and continues the interview. After obtaining that information from the fiance applicant anyway under pre-existing law, Section 214(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184(d)), the OFFICER ultimately approves the visa.]

Of course, if the immigrant lies and says that the two of you met on the Chinese food board, and she is found out in this deception, she deserves not to be granted a visa. Immigrating to the U.S. is a privilege, not a right, and someone who fails to be honest with consular officers is not the ideal immigrant.

As your hypothetical of a visa denial to someone who used an online dating service and was honest about doing so, doesn't seem borne out in the law, could you provide a reputable source that this actually has occurred?

Posted by: PG at November 2, 2007 11:00 AM

PG,

The answer to one of your questions is contained in the quote from the law you copied, I will repeat it in part here: "...and confirm that the international marriage broker provided to the applicant the information and materials required under subsection..."

You are correct that the law does not state that a visa will not be granted if IMBRA is not complied with. But then how shall we interpret the obligations imposed on the consular officer who "shall" " confirm..."? If IMBRA was not complied with, he cannot confirm, and if he cannot confirm, do you think DOS or DHS will say that he can go ahead and grant a visa even if he cannot confirm? (For clarity, regs are being prepared now. I have been in contact with DOS officials but there is nothing about our conversations that would enlighten this debate.)

And no, I am not aware of any denials of visas for noncompliance of IMBRA at this time although that is because the regs are still being prepared. If the regulations come out strong, then our discussion here will be overshadowed by many lawsuits by Americans who find that they cannot bring their fiances or even their wives to the US due to this law, not to mention men who meet women on vacation, on business, etc. and whose fiances are denied visas by consular officials when the fiances respond in the negative to the question of whether they met online and the consular official mistakes nervousness for prevarication.

Even the law's supporters admit that the law is poorly and vaguely worded. But perhaps you realize that vagueness in a law is a reason that it cannot be applied fairly and laws are struck down for being unconstitutionally vague. In this case, anyone who studies the genesis of the law will realize the reason it is vague, but for that I have no more time left and refer you to www.onlinedatingrights.com If you start with the items referred to by the MEDIA/RESEARCH INFORMATION box on the right near the top you can get to the meat of the law and its sorrid history most quickly.

And yes, guns are dangerous and so it is legal to do a background check before a person can get permission to own one. So are you saying that Americans are dangerous like guns? And since IMBRA regulates communication and not dating or marriage, are you saying that Americans must be background checked before saying "Hola" to a Spaniard?

Posted by: Tristan Laurent at November 2, 2007 11:51 AM

Mr. Laurent,

To clarify the analogy to background checks for gun purchases to background checks for information receipt:

As guns (the thing being sought) are to gun purchasers (the person on whom the background check is done);
so foreigner's contact information (the thing being sought) is to Americans using IMBs (the person on whom the background check is done).

If the gun (the thing being sought) is potentially dangerous inasmuch it could be used for assault, murder or intimidation (a crime), we want to ensure that the person seeking it will be a responsible user. If the foreigner's contact information (the thing being sought) is potentially dangerous inasmuch as it could be used for an abusive or fraudulent relationship (a crime), we want to ensure that the person seeking it will be a responsible user.

Once the analogy is clear, Americans using IMBs aren't dangerous like guns (guns are objects; Americans are people). Americans using IMBs are dangerous like gun buyers; the vast majority are good people who will use what they're buying for a good purpose, but we have to be careful of a small minority who won't. We therefore regulate the purchase of a potentially dangerous thing.

If the IMB failed to comply with IMBRA, then the IMB faces penalties under the law, as I noted above. Now ask yourself: is there any information the IMB provides that the law doesn't require the consular officer himself to check out and provide? Even before IMBRA, the person in charge of approving visas had to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1184: (d) Issuance of visa to fiancee or fiance of citizen
A visa shall not be issued under the provisions of section 1101 (a)(15)(K)(i) of this title until the consular officer has received a petition filed in the United States by the fiancee/fiance of the applying alien and approved by the [relevant authority]. The petition shall be in such form and contain such information as the [relevant authority] shall, by regulation, prescribe. Such information shall include information on any criminal convictions of the petitioner for any specified crime. If the IMB failed to provide this information to the foreigner at the outset, this failure is remedied by the consular officer. The remedy doesn't help the IMB escape the penalty for failing in its obligations, but it does allow the foreigner to receive the information that she should have received from the IMB. So yes, I do think DOS or DHS will say that he can go ahead and grant a visa even if he cannot confirm that the IMB complied, as long as he performs the information gathering and delivery. That may slow down the visa process due to the IMB's irresponsibility, but it won't result in a denial.

Getting a visa is a slow process most of the time -- it took almost a year for my aunt's physician husband to get a visa after they married. (And this at a time when the U.S. was recruiting foreign physicians to serve inner-city and rural hospitals; they spent several years in Detroit to fulfill his obligation.) She didn't file a lawsuit about the delay in his visa, but perhaps that's because she is an immigrant and lacks the sense of entitlement peculiar to native-born Americans.

The IMBRA doesn't regulate communication, it regulates the release of contact information. If you don't want to read the law you're fighting, I fear that you will be unsuccessful in defeating it.

Posted by: PG at November 2, 2007 05:49 PM

Mr. Laurent:

The point of the analogy with my female friends in Britain is that it is not criminal--at all--for me to write to them, whether they've signed up to a dating service or not. I already have their email address. If IMBRA functioned as you say it does, however, it would be criminal for me to contact women I already know.

IMBRA regulates and punishes marriage brokers, not individuals. The statements that you have made above, and on your website, are manifestly false: there is no provision of IMBRA that makes it criminal for a man to write a woman (or vice-versa) in a foreign country. Now, as a practical matter, it may be hard for American A to contact Foreigner B if the only person who has either of their contact information is the marriage broker, but that's a separate point entirely. It is the difference between making an act criminal and making it difficult. You may have a valid complaint of the latter, but you weaken it considerably through histrionics designed to dress your complaint up as a constitutional issue. This is a commercial regulation matter, not a free speech case. Case in point:

That doesn't make killing legal, and neither does writing to a British woman make this sort of communication legal.

Writing to a British woman makes no form of communication legal or otherwise. I didn't say it did. What I said was that IMBRA doesn't criminalize any communication between any two individuals foreign and domestic. It regulates marriage brokers--companies--and makes their disclosure of information illegal.

Now, if you can back up your assertion that IMBRA "prohibit[s] all Americans from COMMUNICATING with foreigners who have posted their profiles on a dating site unless the American submits to a sex offender search and provides a certification of intimate details of his life going back to age 18," I'd love to see it. As it stands, I'm still happy to say that you're substantially misrepresenting the truth.

Posted by: Anon at November 3, 2007 01:01 AM

IMBRA defines a “marriage broker” as a for profit introduction agency (charges fees), the majority of whose members are foreign. If an American introduction agency operated on the exact same basis, it would not be subjected to the regulations of IMBRA. In other words, the government is arguing that foreign women are in more need of protection than American women.

The 14th Amendment states:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protections of the law.”

IMBRA doesn’t provide any protections for American women. It also doesn’t provide any protections for American men. Doesn’t the law violate this principle (e.g. equal protections of the law)?

Posted by: Willoughby at November 3, 2007 05:44 AM

"To clarify the analogy to background checks for gun purchases to background checks for information receipt:

As guns (the thing being sought) are to gun purchasers (the person on whom the background check is done);
so foreigner's contact information (the thing being sought) is to Americans using IMBs (the person on whom the background check is done).

If the gun (the thing being sought) is potentially dangerous inasmuch it could be used for assault, murder or intimidation (a crime), we want to ensure that the person seeking it will be a responsible user. If the foreigner's contact information (the thing being sought) is potentially dangerous inasmuch as it could be used for an abusive or fraudulent relationship (a crime), we want to ensure that the person seeking it will be a responsible user.

Once the analogy is clear, Americans using IMBs aren't dangerous like guns (guns are objects; Americans are people). Americans using IMBs are dangerous like gun buyers; the vast majority are good people who will use what they're buying for a good purpose, but we have to be careful of a small minority who won't. We therefore regulate the purchase of a potentially dangerous thing." -PG

How is the American man going to harm a foreign woman with their contact information? Are they going to abuse them with a love letter? IMBRA isn’t dealing with a human relationship. It is forcing American men to release a great deal of private information to complete strangers who may in fact be scammers. They must do this if they want to talk to someone via a so-called “marriage broker”. You have seen the definition of a “marriage broker”. Any dating site that charges fees and has a membership of more than 50% foreign women is a “marriage broker”.

Posted by: Willoughby at November 3, 2007 08:26 AM

Willoughby,

In other words, the government is arguing that foreign women are in more need of protection than American women.
Foreigners are less likely to be familiar with U.S. law than are Americans, and also will find it more difficult and expensive to check on the background of a potential spouse. For example, both crimes and marriages often are reported in the news; a U.S. woman could go to a public library and run a search on the U.S. news going back several years to find out whether her fiance was mentioned. A foreign woman is unlikely to have such resources (and quite possibly may not even read English).

I don't understand what you are trying to do with the reference to the 14th Amendment. It requires laws to treat similarly situated people equally. As noted above, a foreigner and a citizen are not similarly situated for the purpose of knowing U.S. law nor being able to check on the background of an American.

How is the American man going to harm a foreign woman with their contact information?

Consider what a malicious person could do with your contact information. He could harass you electronically by phone or internet (a crime). He could go to your home and stalk you (a crime). Contact information can be quite helpful -- indeed, necessary -- in furtherance of certain crimes. For example, someone reading this site has no contact information for you. Their ability to commit certain crimes against you (such as harassment or stalking) is thus very limited.

It is forcing American men to release a great deal of private information to complete strangers who may in fact be scammers.

If you believe that your sex offender status, your adult criminal record and your marital status are "private information," you are misinformed. If you are charged, much less convicted, of a crime, that is public information. If you get married (requiring the state to license your relationship), that is public information. Given an American's real name and the places he's lived, I probably could find this information about him just by calling the courthouses in the relevant jurisdictions. Private investigators don't have superpowers; they just diligently look for public information that people erroneously think is "private." (A married man who is picking up a woman in a bar? Public. What you do in your home with the windows giving a clear view inside? Public.)

If you are worried about "scammers," don't release genuinely private information such as your social security number, or your credit card number and billing address -- except that's probably what you just input to pay for the dating service. Which is why you shouldn't do online business with a provider that you don't trust.

Posted by: PG at November 3, 2007 12:07 PM

"I don't understand what you are trying to do with the reference to the 14th Amendment. It requires laws to treat similarly situated people equally. As noted above, a foreigner and a citizen are not similarly situated for the purpose of knowing U.S. law nor being able to check on the background of an American."-PG

My understanding is that the government cannot create laws that treat people differently. If a man wants to communicate with a foreign woman via a “marriage broker”, he must have a background check. If he wants to communicate with an American woman via a domestic “marriage broker”, it isn’t necessary. Though the law applies to foreigners, it is being enforced domestically on American men. The law separates two groups of American men and treats them differently.

In addition, the law is primarily concerned with preventing domestic abuse of “mail-order brides” when they are here in the United States. The government cannot provide protection for foreign women and then deny the same protection to American women. The argument that foreign women are more vulnerable isn’t sufficient reason to override the need for equal protection of the law.

As I understand the amendment, it (the 14th Amendment) requires that all people within a state’s political jurisdiction receive the equal protection of the law. This is true whether the person is a citizen or not. The law clearly states “any person” and doesn’t mention citizenship in the passage that deals with “equal protection of the laws”.

"Consider what a malicious person could do with your contact information. He could harass you electronically by phone or internet (a crime). He could go to your home and stalk you (a crime). Contact information can be quite helpful -- indeed, necessary -- in furtherance of certain crimes. For example, someone reading this site has no contact information for you. Their ability to commit certain crimes against you (such as harassment or stalking) is thus very limited." -PG

These arguments are true. Think about the logistics though. How is someone in Dallas going to stalk or harass someone in Beijing? Foreign women don’t need the detailed information that IMBRA requires at the point of initial contact. There is no relationship at all at that point. The American man is really no threat to the foreign woman. American women on the other hand could be treated in the manner that you mention if they gave out their contact information. Why aren’t they protected by IMBRA?

Posted by: Willoughby at November 5, 2007 01:51 AM

My understanding is that the government cannot create laws that treat people differently.

Your understanding is wrong. Look at something as simple as getting a driver's license. A 12-year-old can't, a 16-year-old can. The law treats people differently when those people are different in a way that the law deems relevant. The law deems the difference in age between a 12 year old and a 16 year old to be relevant in determining whether one has the appropriate physical, mental and emotional capacities to be a safe driver. The law deems the difference in being located in the U.S. and being located overseas to be relevant as to the ease with which one can check the background of a prospective suitor.

In addition, the law is primarily concerned with preventing domestic abuse of “mail-order brides” when they are here in the United States.

The part of the law that relates to regulation of marriage brokers is not about preventing the abuse of foreign women who are already on U.S. soil; it is about correcting for foreigners' difficulty in getting accurate information about Americans. We already have laws against domestic abuse of all persons.

The argument that foreign women are more vulnerable isn’t sufficient reason to override the need for equal protection of the law.

Yes, it is. Persons the law deems to be more vulnerable often receive more protection than the "average" person. Most states provide increased penalties for assaulting a person the state deems vulnerable, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled.

In any case, foreigners who give out their contact information to Americans independent of the regulated IMB entities aren't protected by IMBRA either, as Anon attempted to explain above in his example of an American man's being able to continue his pre-existing friendship with British women with no regulation from IMBRA at all. Obviously, there is not differential treatment of all foreigners relative to all Americans; rather, there is a requirement put on a specific kind of commercial entity that is not put on other kinds of commercial entities.

How is someone in Dallas going to stalk or harass someone in Beijing?

I know someone in Houston who was being harassed by someone in Detroit whom she had given her AIM name, email address and phone number. Distance is not an impediment to harassment, thanks to modern technology! Anyone who chooses to give out his own contact information subjects himself to the possibility of harassment, stalking and worse. The U.S. government cannot prevent people from choosing to give out their contact information directly. What it can do is regulate commercial entities that pass that information around -- hence the "do not call," antispam and other privacy laws that I already have mentioned.

I have explained repeatedly that the law regulates IMBs, not individuals. Its requirements and penalties all are imposed on IMBs, not individuals. I am not going to respond to any more comments that ignore the actual law under discussion.

Posted by: PG at November 5, 2007 03:11 PM

What is the difference then between the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act and the Child Online Protection Act (COPA)?

Please see the following link:
http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/internet/29138prs20070322.html

The law requires pornographers to get the credit card information of their clients before they can access their Internet sites. In fact, the law (COPA) doesn’t appear to regulate any speech at all. COPA requires that a business (Internet pornographers) verify that their clients are adults by getting credit card information from them. It penalizes Internet pornographers if they don’t perform that activity.

The ACLU thinks COPA is unconstitutional, and apparently the courts agree.

Posted by: Willoughby at November 5, 2007 04:43 PM

You appear to be comparing IMBs to providers of pornography. However, there are two problems with this comparison:
1) Pornographers are not providing individuals' contact information to other individuals. As I have noted repeatedly, the government regulates dissemination of such information, and neither the ACLU nor the Supreme Court considers this problematic, much less unconstitutional. Instead, pornography providers wish to disseminate what some might deem to be education (there are teenage boys who devoutly hope that porn is instructive of what sex actually is like), others might deem art (silent porn films are shown at the Museum of Sex in NYC), but what is decidedly not information that could be used to harass individuals. Indeed, pornographers are generally protective of their actors' real names, not to mention their contact information.
2) The ACLU's challenge to COPA is that it is overbroad and regulates the Worldwide Web by the standards of the American community with the broadest idea of what constitutes "material harmful to minors." Because of a single community that considers a discussion of sodomy "harmful to minors," underage persons may thereby lose access to useful information (say, from Dan Savage's online column, which is done for a profit and thus falls under the law) about how to protect themselves from STDs during high-risk sex. In contrast, IMBRA is based on a single, federal standard, and doesn't violate the First Amendment, because there is no First Amendment right to disseminate others' contact information.

Posted by: PG at November 6, 2007 12:01 AM

The Supreme Court has never stated that an American has a liberty right to contact a foreigner for romantic purposes either. The government could prohibit Americans from marrying foreigners (and bringing them to the United States) because it is an immigration issue. That would be legal wouldn’t it?

Posted by: Willoughby at November 6, 2007 01:32 AM

The U.S. government couldn't prohibit Americans from marrying foreigners, because marriage is deemed a fundamental right -- possibly one greater than voting, because felons can have their voting rights taken away, but cannot be absolutely forbidden to marry even while incarcerated. See Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374; Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78.
Marriage isn't an immigration issue; you can marry a foreigner if you want (you can go to a polygamous country and marry four of them). Demanding that your fiance(s) or spouse(s) have immediate admission to the U.S., on the other hand, does not comport with immigration law.

Posted by: PG at November 6, 2007 01:40 PM

How does IMBRA-type regulation relate to the exemption provided in the Communications Decency Act (CDA)? The CDA may be what enables Match.com and numerous other dating-service providers to not be legally responsible for how their members communicate or what they do to each other. The CDA is then a good or bad law, I don't know. However, why sites that provide dating services that have more than 50% non-Americans as members are not provided with the same treatment under the CDA has never been logically explained.

Posted by: Jaycees at November 29, 2007 09:54 AM

To All Readers:

Please do not comment on this thread until you have read the law in question. If you then object to the law, cite the specific provisions that you are criticizing. This allows the discussion to focus on the actual law instead of on Tristan Laurent's fantasized version thereof. I will not respond to comments that do not quote the law; they are off-topic.

IMBRA does not at all make any dating-service provider liable for how members communicate or what they do to each other. It only requires the dating service to check Americans' names against the sex offender registry and to have Americans self-report criminal and marital history, before the service hands out foreigners' contact information to Americans. The regulation is strictly of the dating service in its dispensing of contact information; it is not a regulation of the customers.

Posted by: PG at November 29, 2007 06:15 PM

"IMBRA does not at all make any dating-service provider liable for how members communicate or what they do to each other. It only requires the dating service to check Americans' names against the sex offender registry and to have Americans self-report criminal and marital history, before the service hands out foreigners' contact information to Americans. The regulation is strictly of the dating service in its dispensing of contact information; it is not a regulation of the customers." - PG

This is technically correct. The argument, however, reminds me of the reasoning of managed care insurance companies. People frequently complain that managed care insurance companies are withholding medical treatment from people and causing harm for the sake of profit. The insurance companies respond that they are not withholding medical care; they are simply refusing to pay for it. The person is still free to have a medical procedure or prescription medication if they want to fund it in some other manner.

Technically, the managed care insurance company is not withholding care, but obviously on a practical level they are. Most people could never afford much of their own medical care by self-financing it.

Posted by: Willoughby at December 6, 2007 05:34 PM

Willoughby,

I don't understand your analogy. Are you comparing customers of international dating services to patients in need of care? I know meeting foreigners for romantic relationships is important to IMBRA's opponents, but I didn't think it was conceived as a matter of life and death. I see it much more like cosmetic surgery, which many people find desirable but is hardly necessary to sustaining life. I have no problem with managed care companies' not covering it.

If your response is that you didn't intend to make a direct comparison of IMB customers to people dying of cancer, then perhaps such emotive analogies are inappropriate.

Posted by: PG at December 8, 2007 06:17 PM

Analogies are problematic. I was trying to point out that what something is couldn’t be separated from its practical consequences. IMBRA regulates IMBs. On the other hand, it does so by requiring background checks on its male clients who are purchasing contact information. A man must be background checked before he can communicate with a woman in a foreign country via a "marriage broker". The law impacts American men.

The ACLU argued in COPA (Child Online Protection Act) that the government wasn’t using the least restrictive means to prevent minors from viewing pornography. They argued that Internet filters were more than sufficient. Actually, Internet filters in many cases filter out more information than the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) would have done. It is my opinion that the ACLU challenged the law based upon its practical consequences. After all, the law doesn’t technically do anything other than require pornographic sites to collect credit card information from their clients to ensure that they are adults. I don’t believe that the ACLU is in principle opposed to laws that prevent minors from viewing pornography.

IMBRA seems to assume that foreign women have access to computer technology and can easily comply with the law. That isn’t true. Many of them only have irregular (and often unreliable) access to the Internet through Internet cafes. Using postal mail to receive approvals for the release of contact information creates a logistical nightmare for the agencies and their members. It will have the practical effect of driving men away who don’t want to wait long periods of time to communicate with people that they don’t even know. To put it simply, it doesn’t work.

The Tahirih Justice Center apparently seems to believe that having background checks at the visa application level is sufficient to accomplish the government’s goal of preventing foreign women from marrying men who have a history of domestic violence. I don’t see why IMBRA can’t be challenged in the same manner that COPA was challenged. The government isn’t using the least restrictive means to accomplish its objective.

Posted by: Willoughby at December 10, 2007 02:55 PM

Certainly nothing can be separated from its practical consequences, and laws that affect our constitutional rights must be tailored as narrowly as possible to meet a compelling governmental objective. In your example of COPA, the law threatened a website owner's First Amendment right to communicate with the public, and did so in the name of preventing children's exposure to pornography. Of course, the really narrow way to meet that objective would be for parents to actually pay attention to their children's use of the internet, which is why the ACLU supported the use of filters. Parents can choose to put filters on the media in their homes. Adults without credit cards, in contrast, cannot access the websites that the government wanted to regulate.

The problem with your analogy is that no discernible constitutional right of IMBs is being threatened by IMBRA. IMBs can communicate with their customers. Their customers, as long as they don't go through the IMBRA, can communicate with one another. The sole requirement is that if the IMB wants to make profits on customers' communication with one another, it must check the American customer's name against the sex offender registry, get the customer to disclose marital and criminal history, and then send this information to the foreign customer.

Practically speaking, the American customers who sign up with IMBs should simply send their information when they sign up. (A decently run business would do this to avoid slowing down the process later.) Upon the American customer's asking for the contact information of a foreign customer, the IMB can send the info ASAP. Will the foreign customers with limited internet access have more difficulty expediting communication with Americans? Surely, but a lack of internet access in 2007 would seem to have that effect somewhat inherently. I'm a little surprised that Americans can't wait for the communication, but are happy to pay long distance telephone bills for it.

Posted by: PG at December 10, 2007 09:04 PM

"Practically speaking, the American customers who sign up with IMBs should simply send their information when they sign up. (A decently run business would do this to avoid slowing down the process later.) Upon the American customer's asking for the contact information of a foreign customer, the IMB can send the info ASAP. Will the foreign customers with limited internet access have more difficulty expediting communication with Americans? Surely, but a lack of internet access in 2007 would seem to have that effect somewhat inherently. I'm a little surprised that Americans can't wait for the communication, but are happy to pay long distance telephone bills for it." -PG

In agencies, which are Internet based, it appears that the IMBs require their male members to post a photo-based profile with their IMBRA information. If the foreign woman has reliable Internet access, she only has to read the profiles of the men that interest her in terms of their appearance and financial status (or other desirable qualities) and approve the release of her contact information. It doesn’t appear to be a significant problem.

In more impoverished areas of the world, this isn’t the case. These women do not have reliable Internet access. That being the case, the agencies probably don’t have profiles of their male members. It appears that the agencies simply mail the IMBRA form (filled out) to the women who then either approve or don’t approve to release of their contact information. If the woman is attractive, she will receive hundreds of requests. No person is going to want to read through all of those forms about people that they cannot see, know nothing about, and don’t know.

Foreign women received background information on their American fiancés before IMBRA was passed. It was part of the immigration process. IMBRA demands these disclosures before two people may communicate via an IMB. This law ostensibly assumes that foreign women are so stupid that they cannot evaluate a man for themselves during the process of courtship. After all, we aren’t talking about marriage. “Marriage brokers” aren’t marriage brokers. The term is very misleading. The agencies simply introduce people to one another.


Posted by: Willoughby at December 12, 2007 05:06 AM

PG:

I am not a skilled debater, nor do I wish to refute anyone's comments or opinions expressed on this blog. Many of debated items & comments are very impressive. I'm just simple country folk, call me a hick if you like. I just wanted to say thanks for posting a difficult subject & expanding my knowledge. I have had a difficult time this past year in researching the IMBRA laws - many sites seem to be men becoming angry to the point of vitriolic & it was hard to get anyone to just speak plainly.

My inquiries started in 2005 when I wondered why my beloved boyfriend became so upset when he heard the news on the radio...With a weary smile I look back over the past two year adventure I have had in finding out a simple truth. The adventure had much to offer: Intrigue, illegal immigrants, money, trips to the Philippines, threatening calls & emails, broken hearts & much more... I also discovered out a lot about myself. What did I find out? That I am not against men or women looking for mate anywhere in the world. That I have strong feelings about immigrating to any country- if you're going to become American or expatriate, do it right. I also learned that "legal" doesn't necessarily mean "ethical" or "morally straight".

In my reading, I ran across something in American history about a woman having to take a man's country when she married. The law took effect in 1907 & it was not repealed until 1933.

Sorry PG, but I have to say this to the men:

For shame, sirs.

Posted by: chris at December 28, 2007 11:01 PM

Willoughby,

I'm confused. Do you think men who sign up on IMBs have some sort of right to have women consider them? I can't understand otherwise why it matters that attractive women won't read through all of the forms about strange men. Of course they won't; they'll toss the prospects that have any past criminal history, make a "maybe" pile of the divorced men with children, and focus their attention on childless guys with high income who offer the best prospect of a successful life in the U.S. Such is the dating game.

You're going back to making misleading claims about IMBRA. Before the law passed, foreigners didn't receive criminal information until they'd already accepted a proposal and were preparing to immigrate. At that point, news of a past crime might be outweighed by what the foreigner already had invested in the relationship. Getting the information up front, however, allows the foreigner to choose whether to spend any time on an American with a worrying history, or to look at other prospects instead (as described above). That's not assuming someone is stupid; on the contrary, it assumes someone can make good decisions when given full information. This is a basic assumption of American economics: give people information, and they'll decide what's right for themselves. You seem to want to hide the information until time and resources already have been spent -- to force foreigners to decide between the sunk costs of the relationship or the risk of a spouse with a past criminal or marital history previously unknown to them.

Chris,

Sounds like an interesting story -- hope you can share more of the details.

Posted by: PG at December 29, 2007 06:07 PM

PG,

All of the “rights” that you are talking about are for the foreign woman. There aren’t any for the American man. After all, he doesn’t know anything about the foreign woman until she is about to immigrate to the United States for marriage.

No one has the “right” to be considered. I don’t know why you think that I believe that a person has the right to a response.

The IMBRA form is rather limited. It lists aspects of a man’s life without his photo or any description of who he is. Most people are attracted to other people based upon their appearance and aspects of their personality. None of this information is on the IMBRA form.

The IMBRA disclosure form doesn’t talk about someone’s income or employment (things which most women care about). In addition, all of the information is self-reported. A man could lie on the form, and no one would know that he is lying. All the IMB (international marriage broker) agency is required to do is a criminal background check.

This law does more than require international marriage brokers to collect background information on their American clients. The background information must be disseminated to the foreign woman and she must sign off on it before two people may communicate via an IMB.

Everything about this law is that men are bad. We have to protect foreign women from American men. Well fine. I could care less about filling out the IMBRA form. I will have to add however that the mere existence of a law like this does a far better job of promoting the desirability of foreign women than anything that a marriage broker could possibly say in their sales pitch.


Posted by: Willoughby at January 4, 2008 11:27 PM

Willoughby,

All of the “rights” that you are talking about are for the foreign woman.

And now you've moved on to misrepresenting what *I* say. Go through this page. See if you can find a single place where I advocate rights for foreigners in general or for foreign women in particular.

I am not claiming that foreigners have any rights at issue; I am saying that the statute does not impede the rights of Americans. You and other opponents of IMBRA keep saying that it infringes your rights. I am saying it doesn't. If you want to change my mind, you have to point out how the statute infringes the constitutional or statutory rights of Americans.

So far you have failed to do so -- instead you complain that the law makes American men look bad. (Even though the law does not distinguish on sex, you and its other opponents keep trying to give the impression that it applies only to men seeking women. It's a smart rhetorical move on your part because sex discrimination would immediately create a constitutional ground to challenge IMBRA, but it's still a lie about the law, which is why no such challenge has been raised.) Sadly, Americans have no right to look good. If you want to live somewhere that says you have a right to look good based on your sex and citizenship, move to a European nation that makes "group libel" illegal.

As for this law's making foreign women more desirable, great. It's not meant to make anyone desirable or undesirable; it's meant to maximize foreigners' ability to make informed decisions about relationships with Americans. I'm sorry that you and other opponents of the law find that goal so threatening.

Posted by: PG at January 5, 2008 02:45 PM

“As for this law's making foreign women more desirable, great. It's not meant to make anyone desirable or undesirable; it's meant to maximize foreigners' ability to make informed decisions about relationships with Americans. I'm sorry that you and other opponents of the law find that goal so threatening.” - PG

Why then doesn’t the law apply to sites like Match.com and other similar sites that have many foreign individuals advertising for relationships on them? As far as I am aware there are more foreigners on those sites than there are on IMB sites. The law only applies to IMB sites.


“So far you have failed to do so -- instead you complain that the law makes American men look bad. (Even though the law does not distinguish on sex, you and its other opponents keep trying to give the impression that it applies only to men seeking women. It's a smart rhetorical move on your part because sex discrimination would immediately create a constitutional ground to challenge IMBRA, but it's still a lie about the law, which is why no such challenge has been raised.)” – PG


I am not aware of any IMBs that introduce American women to foreign men. Both Legal Momentum (National Organization for Women) and the Tahirih Justice Center, who promoted this law, are clearly (based upon what I have read) stating that the purpose of the law (IMBRA) is to protect foreign women (“mail-order brides”) from American men. The language of the law may be gender neutral, but its implications are not.

Posted by: Willoughby at January 6, 2008 02:21 PM

Politics is the art of compromise. While many people have in fact called for requiring domestic dating sites like Match.com to get more information from members, there hasn't been any successful federal legislation. Maybe that will be the next reform, especially if there are well-publicized cases in which foreigners who meet Americans over Match.com are abused or killed -- the type of incidents that galvanized support for IMBRA. This is also why Legal Momentum and the Tahirih Justice Center focused on incidents of men's abuse of women. If there had been well-publicized incidents of women's bringing foreign men to the U.S. only to abuse them, those would have been raised as well as justification for the law.

There are in fact international marriage brokers that introduce American women to foreign men; these tend to specialize in particular ethnicities, e.g. in introducing 1st and 2nd generation Indian-Americans to Indians in the homeland, ultimately allowing the latter to immigrate to the U.S. Merely because you aren't the audience for such IMBs doesn't mean they are nonexistent.

Posted by: PG at January 6, 2008 04:25 PM

“There are in fact international marriage brokers that introduce American women to foreign men; these tend to specialize in particular ethnicities, e.g. in introducing 1st and 2nd generation Indian-Americans to Indians in the homeland, ultimately allowing the latter to immigrate to the U.S. Merely because you aren't the audience for such IMBs doesn't mean they are nonexistent.”-PG

Doesn’t this refer to the aspect of IMBRA that exempts traditional matchmaking organizations of a religious or cultural nature that do not operate to make a profit? As far as I know, the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act is not regulating these agencies.

The feminist organizations were targeting introduction agencies that introduce American men to women who originate from economically depressed areas of our world. They made no effort to conceal the fact that the law (IMBRA) is designed to protect foreign women from American men. It is designed, according to their arguments, to empower the foreign woman who may be subjected to abuse and could possibly become a victim of human trafficking.

What is problematic is that they didn’t really produce very much evidence to substantiate their claims that these women suffer high rates of abuse. In addition, the international marriage broker industry does not operate in a paradigmatic manner like human trafficking syndicates. Their arguments are not very persuasive.

It is clear in their arguments that they are targeting American men and trying to prevent men who have a history of domestic violence from being able to meet and marry women from developing countries. I do not think that this law is gender neutral (at least in its intentions).

Posted by: Willoughby at January 7, 2008 02:49 PM

No, there are for-profit Indian matchmaking services. See, e.g., Shaadi.com, which charges both sexes for premium membership. If you find IMBRA's requirements intrusive, note the massive quantity of information that most men on that service disclose: everything from past marriages and children to blood type, number of siblings and whether *they* are married. A website is a non-traditional way to find a spouse for Indians; normally matches were made through the highly extended networks of family and friends. You would know not only whether a prospective husband or wife had been married previously, but also what their family background was, etc. Therefore the people participating on these sites recognize that they should reassure potential spouses that this new way of meeting someone will not be full of secrecy.

Laws do not have to be neutral in their intentions, only in their effect. For example, the requirement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that there be no discrimination based on sex was explicitly intended by its chief sponsor -- a Southern Democrat who thought race discrimination should be legal -- to protect white women whom he thought otherwise would be disadvantaged by the Act's central provision of prohibiting racial discrimination. Nowadays, of course, men who believe themselves to have been discriminated against in employment will point to the Civil Rights Act and say that it prohibits discriminating against men just as much as it does discriminating against women.

A law may begin in order to address an issue but will end up addressing more than that. The Civil Rights Act was addressing discrimination against African Americans and was expanded to include women; now it is used to protect all races' and both sexes' rights against discrimination. IMBRA is addressing abuse of foreign women; yet the law must be applied to IMBs regardless of the sex of participants.

It seems to me quite silly to fret so much about the intentions of the people who supported a piece of legislation, instead of focusing on whether the law is applied fairly. Even though the man who added an anti-sex discrimination element to the Civil Rights Act was specifically trying to help white women, not women of color like myself, I don't see that as rendering the law itself bad. If you can show that the IMBRA is applied in a discriminatory manner -- for example, that it is not applied to women using IMBs covered by the law -- then I will agree there is a problem. So long as you are just complaining about how you dislike NOW and the Tahirih Justice Center, however, I don't see the problem.

Posted by: PG at January 7, 2008 03:48 PM

I think that it is wrong to argue that a law is gender neutral simply because a very small number of Internet dating sites might fall under its coverage that introduce Indian-American women to foreign men. I assume that there are very few sites like the Indian site that you mention.

The vast majority of sites involve American men who want to meet foreign women. The law was clearly created to regulate these sites. All of the arguments put forward to create this law revolve around this fact. The law is designed to protect “mail-order brides” from American men.

I don’t think that anyone is arguing that IMBRA doesn’t regulate how men meet women through IMBs. No group is arguing that this law is designed to protect foreigners from American women. Legal Momentum and the Tahirih Justice Center are arguing the IMB male clients are looking for submissive women, and are more likely than other American men to engage in domestic violence. They haven’t produced a lot of evidence for this claim.

You could make an argument (based on how I am interpreting your argument) that it is acceptable to only force people of Near Eastern origin to be subjected to security screenings at airports based on the fact that most anti-American terrorism is coming from that area of the world. The statute wouldn’t necessarily state that airport screenings should simply involve people who are of Near Eastern origin. In fact, the law could state that it is acceptable to do this based upon the State Department’s assessment of terrorism risk from a particular area of the world. Since at some point in the future terrorism risks to the United States might originate from other areas of the world makes the law valid, because the statute does not mention a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group in its language.

Obviously such a law would be designed to force people of Near Eastern origin who are Muslim to be singled out for security screenings at airports. The fact that Christians, Jews, Yazidis, and Baha’is would also be subjected to this treatment would not, in my opinion, negate the fact that the law is discriminating against a particular group of people (Near Eastern Muslims). Most people in the Near East are Muslims.

Posted by: Willoughby at January 8, 2008 02:28 PM

"I assume that there are very few sites like the Indian site that you mention."

I think there probably are plenty of them. You weren't aware of any sites because (I'm guessing) you're not a non-white immigrant nor the child of non-white immigrants. I'm aware of the Indian one because I'm Indian. I think if we polled immigrants and the children of immigrants across many different communities -- Thai, Cambodian, Israeli, Saudi, etc. -- we would find that there are plenty of ethnically-targeted sites that introduce Americans of both sexes to people from their nations of origin.

Speaking of national origin, your airport security example is invalid. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that any entity that receives federal assistance (which obviously includes the TSA, an actual federal agency) cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin. Such discrimination also would be quite stupid on a practical basis: as you might guess from their names, neither Richard Reid the shoe bomber, nor Jose Padilla (the two most prominent accused terrorists to be arrested off planes in the U.S.), is of "Near East" origin. Violent Islamic ideology is not isolated in a single region.

"I don’t think that anyone is arguing that IMBRA doesn’t regulate how men meet women through IMBs."

Of course no one is arguing that. Now try to argue that IMBRA doesn't regulate how American women meet foreign men through IMBs. If you can't make that argument, then you have failed to explain how the law is violating your rights. You keep saying it's sex discriminatory but you can't come up with anything better than the fact that it arose from concerns about men's abuse of women. That's no better than saying the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn't protect men from sex discrimination because it arose from concerns about sex discrimination against women. If Congress intends for a law to apply solely to women, it can write that law and see if it passes constitutional muster. If Congress wants a law to apply to a particular type of business regardless of its customers' sex, it writes something that looks like IMBRA.

The Supreme Court has said a law is gender-neutral even if its effect might be to favor one sex over the other, as long as that effect is due to individuals' own choices and is not a pretext for sex discrimination. (A law that only affects pregnant people obviously is incapable of reaching men and therefore would be problematic; the biological capacity for pregnancy is a proxy for sex.) See Personnel Administrator v. Feeney, 442 U.S. 256 (1979), in which the Court said that a preference given to veterans in hiring is not sex discrimination against women, even though a very tiny percentage of veterans in 1979 were women. Because the difference was based in women's own choices -- very few women chose to join the military -- and was not done in order disadvantage women, it was not sex discrimination.

Regarding IMBRA, apparently more American men than American women want to use marriage brokers that get their business from introducing Americans to foreigners and that may charge people different rates based on their sex. IMBRA, like a veteran's preference, is facially neutral with regard to sex -- it applies to both men and women. There's nothing about international dating that makes it a proxy for sex. Indeed, it's even less of one than veteran's preference is, because the U.S. military has physical requirements that do exclude a greater percentage of women than men and this is inherent to the biological differences between men and women (women's lesser height, weight, upper body strength). In contrast, there's nothing about the inherent biological difference between men and women that makes it plausible that a law regulating internationally-focused dating sites MUST be targeting men. The XY chromosome does not make men less xenophobic or more multicultural or whatever inclines people to date internationally.

Posted by: PG at January 8, 2008 08:07 PM

“I think there probably are plenty of them. You weren't aware of any sites because (I'm guessing) you're not a non-white immigrant nor the child of non-white immigrants. I'm aware of the Indian one because I'm Indian. I think if we polled immigrants and the children of immigrants across many different communities -- Thai, Cambodian, Israeli, Saudi, etc. -- we would find that there are plenty of ethnically-targeted sites that introduce Americans of both sexes to people from their nations of origin.” –PG

Unless these agencies that you are talking about operate for a profit, they are exempt from IMBRA regulation (even if they charge fees). The law exempts sites of a cultural or religious nature. I doubt that there are very many of these agencies that would qualify as IMBs with regard to how IMBRA defines the term. In addition, whether a business is for profit or non-profit doesn’t really alter the manner in which it operates for the most part. I assume the feminist lobby carved out an exemption for most of these sites since I assume that most of them can be classified as non-profit. Also, they are probably few in number in comparison with the sites that are classified as IMBs. The feminist literature would certainly indicate that this conclusion is correct.

“Speaking of national origin, your airport security example is invalid. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that any entity that receives federal assistance (which obviously includes the TSA, an actual federal agency) cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin. Such discrimination also would be quite stupid on a practical basis: as you might guess from their names, neither Richard Reid the shoe bomber, nor Jose Padilla (the two most prominent accused terrorists to be arrested off planes in the U.S.), is of "Near East" origin. Violent Islamic ideology is not isolated in a single region.”-PG

My analogy did not speak of national origin at all; the theoretical statute is based on perceived threat as determined by the State Department. The fact that it is largely adversely impacting Near Eastern Muslims is only incidental based upon your reasoning. Most anti-American terrorism is coming from the Near East at present. In the future it may come from another area. The theoretical statute does not mention national origin at all.

You have basically argued that the government may create laws that adversely impact certain groups of people. In addition, it is irrelevant in your mind that the people who create such a law intend to restrict the rights of a certain group of people. As long as the language of the law is neutral with regard to different people, and it has the potential to affect all people equally it is a valid constitutionally sound law.

“Of course no one is arguing that. Now try to argue that IMBRA doesn't regulate how American women meet foreign men through IMBs. If you can't make that argument, then you have failed to explain how the law is violating your rights.” –PG

The explanation is hypergamy. The feminists have accurately noted that the international marriage broker industry is unidirectional. Women from the developing world want to marry white-collar professional men in the developed world. That is the structure of the industry. There is no demand for American women in foreign countries (the feminists largely admit this).

Your argument is that because a woman could potentially use an IMB, it (IMBRA) doesn’t discriminate against men. You want to separate what a law technically states from its practical effects. No one is society does this, and if our courts do accept this type of reasoning than it raises questions about the nature of our judicial system. It also explains how a law like this could be enacted and why someone like Judge Clarence Cooper would rule that it is a valid law. I doubt most Americans would feel comfortable with this type of reasoning.

You ostensibly are not denying that the feminists are targeting American men for regulation when they seek to meet foreign women through an IMB. You apparently are not denying that the law is affecting American men. Your argument is that the law is acceptable because the law could theoretically impact a woman.

“In contrast, there's nothing about the inherent biological difference between men and women that makes it plausible that a law regulating internationally-focused dating sites MUST be targeting men. The XY chromosome does not make men less xenophobic or more multicultural or whatever inclines people to date internationally.” –PG

There are economic and cultural factors that are creating this. Hypergamy is one of them. A fear of the high divorce rate in domestic marriages is another. Most women in the United States “marry up” and many men fear divorce because of its financial repercussions (foreign women are less likely to divorce their husbands). The desire for a more “traditional” marriage is another factor (e.g. a disdain for the feminist paradigm of relationships). Some of the men are shy and haven’t been that successful with American women.

Most societies expect more from men than women. This is a part of the reason (though not the only one) for why men hold much of the political and economic power in the world. Most women in the world seek to gain wealth and status through marriage (as well as emotional satisfaction). That is why the international marriage broker industry is unidirectional. Why would an American woman want to marry a man in an impoverished country who cannot support her tastes and desires? American women do not participate in the industry, because they have nothing to gain from it. If anything, the international marriage broker industry undermines their interests.

Posted by: Willoughby at January 9, 2008 09:08 AM

The government generally regulates for-profit businesses differently than it does non-profits. If IMBRA increases the cost of operating a business, there is more concern about increasing costs for a non-profit than for a for-profit enterprise. There is nothing unconstitutional about this.

Exactly how would the State Department define who is coming from the "Near East" region except by nation? Are they going to draw a circle on a map with no country borders on it, and say that the person from Saudi Village X isn't subject to screening, but the person from Saudi Village Y is, and the person at the airport has to figure out who comes from which village? The claim that one could discriminate on the basis of coming from an "area of the world," without discriminating on national origin, is ludicrous and illogical.

American women generally aren't seeking to immigrate to other countries any more than American men are. I don't know why in your mind a woman MUST immigrate to the home nation of a man, and you cannot conceive of the opposite happening, even though I have given the example of Indian-American women who marry Indian men and have the men immigrate to the U.S. This really does happen. I can send you the wedding announcements if you find it so unbelievable that a woman in the U.S. would want to marry a non-U.S. man.

Social differences between men and women that affect whether a particular law will apply to them are not enough to make a law sex discriminatory. Americans choose whether or not to follow sex stereotypes. American women can and do marry foreigners, including ones with less income. That this is not a majority practice doesn't mean it is irrelevant. The veteran's preference that I noted above is the perfect example of this: especially prior to 1980, there was a social bias in favor of men's military service and against women's military service, yet a veteran's preference was still OK because women *could* benefit from it in theory, even though they were a tiny minority compared to the number of men who did.

If you have a problem with the Supreme Court's precedent in these matters, feel free to submit a brief to them, but I doubt they will overturn this precedent based on some American men's difficulty in getting a date with American women, and those men's fear of having a foreign woman know their marital and criminal history before they can communicate with her.

Posted by: PG at January 9, 2008 10:44 AM

“If you have a problem with the Supreme Court's precedent in these matters, feel free to submit a brief to them, but I doubt they will overturn this precedent based on some American men's difficulty in getting a date with American women, and those men's fear of having a foreign woman know their marital and criminal history before they can communicate with her.”-PG

What would be the point? Based on your logic and your explanation of legal precedents, the Supreme Court obviously doesn’t care about the rights of men. Women are clearly "more equal" than men.

Posted by: Willoughby at January 10, 2008 08:22 AM

I explain repeatedly that the relevant precedent was one in which the law (giving job preference to veterans) was to the detriment of women, the Supreme Court upheld this woman-disadvantaging law, and you say "Women are clearly 'more equal' than men" to the Supreme Court?

I give up. You're clearly more interested in complaining about IMBRA than in understanding the operation of law, which makes my attempt to explain the law futile.

Posted by: PG at January 10, 2008 02:00 PM

PG: hey, I sent you a short version of my story to your email account. sorry, i don't want it to be public just yet,ok? cheers. chris

Posted by: chris at March 7, 2008 10:38 AM

chris,

Thanks for e-mailing me -- your story was fascinating and I hope you'll feel able to share it with more people. I know those who want an unregulated market with as little information as possible are a noisy and aggressive side of the argument, but it's important for them to hear your voice as well, even if they're not currently listening.

Posted by: PG at March 7, 2008 01:46 PM
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