IMBRA: Anatomy of a Feminist Hoax


By: Carey Roberts

Want a textbook example how the Left manufactures a crisis, passes a law that rolls back Constitutional protections, snookers card-carrying conservatives, and bilks American taxpayers? Look no farther than IMBRA, the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act.

A little background: It’s no secret that conditions in post-socialist Russia are grim. Author Sonya Luehrmann recounts how women desperately search to find a husband “to put one’s personal life in order, to settle down with a stable family.”

And here in the United States, some men find American ladies to be a little too, shall we say, high-maintenance for their tastes.

Before long over 200 match-making services around the world had sprouted up like a clutch of springtime tulips.

A few years ago University of Pittsburgh professor Nicole Constable set out to probe the inner workings of these dating agencies. In her book Romance on a Global Stage, Constable revealed the international match-makers were simply responding to a human need for companionship and love. Many men who marry foreign brides “went to great lengths to ensure their partner’s comfort and happiness in the United States,” she noted.

But feminists are rankled by any hint that their nostrum for female liberation may be curtailing American women’s marriage prospects. Worse, some of these foreign women actually aspire to be mothers and homemakers. Imagine that!

So the Sourpuss Sisters conspired to put the kibosh on the operation. They knew convincing Congress to regulate romance would be a hard sell. So they resorted to their tried and true formula of hackneyed stereotypes, outright demagoguery, and appeals to male chivalry.

It was Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington who quarterbacked the legislative strategy. First she brandished the notion of “mail-order brides,” casting foreign women as victims of predatory males. Then she dubbed international dating services as “marriage brokers,” conjuring up the image of a rogue operation trading lives for dollars.

On July 13, 2004 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee scheduled a hearing to air the issue. No dating services or happily-betrothed foreign women were invited to testify — their comments would not likely fit the script.

During her testimony, Cantwell made the startling claim that match-making services serve as a nefarious front for international human trafficking. She concluded, “there is a growing epidemic of domestic abuse among couples who meet via international marriage brokers.” As proof of that “epidemic,” she highlighted the cases of three abused women.

Cantwell’s depiction of comely maidens being seduced into prostitution rings was more than Sen. Sam Brownback could resist, and before long he signed on as a leading co-sponsor of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act. With liberals and conservatives now on board, IMBRA’s political star was rising.

But it turns out that Senator Cantwell’s supposition that dating services drag women into a life of sex slavery and indentured servitude was nothing more than a feminist tall-tale.

There was the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service report that revealed, “less than 1 percent of the abuse cases now being brought to the attention of the INS can be attributed to the mail-order bride industry.” [source]

A second analysis soberly concluded that foreign brides are “dramatically less likely to be involved in domestic violence as calculated by the Intimate Partner Murder Rate.” [source]

And earlier this week the Washington Post reported that early estimates of up to 100,000 human trafficking victims being secreted into the United States each year were grossly exaggerated. Despite more than $150 million of taxpayer dollars diverted to a massive search and rescue effort, it turns out the actual number of trafficking victims is closer to 200 annually. [source]

But in the politically-correct atmosphere that envelopes Washington these days, agendas count for more than the truth.

So after the gavel fell on the Senate hearing, the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act was bundled into the Violence Against Women Act. That law was signed into law on January 5, 2006. A few days later, Fox News columnist Wendy McElroy castigated the act as branding all American men as “abusers.” [source]

Now, any man who wishes to go through an international dating company must submit to an extensive background check. That’s right, guys, get ready to tell them about your arrests, criminal history, restraining orders, how many times you’ve been married, and even how many children you have. For good measure, don’t forget the sex offender registry check.

So thanks to Senator Cantwell’s artful dissembling and Senator Brownback’s white-horse chivalry, men are presumed to be a threat to foreign women. And Cupid’s arrow now falls under the watchful eyes of green-visored bureaucrats.



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