Let's not just make it tougher for American men to hook up with "mail order brides" over the Internet and import them, let's ban the practice altogether.
In one of the more laudable acts of his tenure in the White House, President Bush earlier this year signed into law the "International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005" or IMBRA. The law imposes some tough restrictions on men seeking to import wives. Some of the men complain the law presumes all such American men are abusers.
But I say the mere act (to wit, the bizarre act) of deciding to marry someone from a foreign country who is just about guaranteed to be less well educated and a lot less well off financially, creates such an incurably unhealthy imbalance of power in the union, even horrifically burdensome regulation won't suffice.
The law requires before any foreign woman's contact information is sold (by an Internet marriage broker) to an American man, he must disclose his criminal and marital background. It also requires the agency brokering such relationships to obtain the man's record from the National Sex Offenders Public Registry database, translate it into the woman's native language and give her a copy.
An Internet search for the words, "mail order brides abuses" brings up articles entitled, "A license to Abuse" and "Mail Order Misery" among many others. Tales of brutalized and murdered women are legion. The situation is not new, although the Internet is clearly increasing opportunities for men to find developing nation wives (very few so-called mail order marriages if any are between American men and women from other developed nations.)
The New York Times reports, "In 1998, fewer than 2,500 foreign women applied to become permanent residents under the Violence Against Women Act (of which IMBRA is a part) which allows abused wives to apply for residence without the support of their husbands. In the fiscal year that ended in September, 9,500 applied." That's a 400 percent increase in six years. The paper quotes the INS saying some 37,500 women entered the country last year on fiancee visas or temporary visas for spouses of American citizens -- up 50 percent from three years before.
A 1993 Yale Law Journal article described several cases of unimaginable abuse including the tale of one Maria who came to the United States from the Dominican Republican to marry a man who began brutalizing her shortly after they married.
"I had eight stitches in my head and a gash on the other side of my head, and he broke my ribs .... He would bash my head against the wall while we had sex. He kept threatening to kill me if I told the doctor what happened."
Who pays these women's health care bills when their husbands beat and abandon them? Most likely, the American taxpayer.
I don't assume all such marriages end badly. Still, it seems a bizarre and unappealing choice for an American man to set out to marry a woman on the basis of a preconceived notion that she emanates from a submissive culture. And submissiveness is key, as the men portrayed in the Times article make clear.
"'It all started with women's lib,' said Sam Smith, a former salesman of insurance and mutual funds, who founded I Love Latins in Houston six years ago. 'Guys are sick and tired of the North American me, me, me attitude."'
We are already a nation divided on mass immigration with polls showing more and more Americans want limits to the number of foreigners granted citizenship. Do we really want another 40,000 plus people entering the United States per year to satisfy men who cannot seem to find suitable mates among America's already copious supply?
This is one growing phenomenon that our government ought not to endorse.
Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.