Friday, April 21, 2006

State Senators in WA, CA Pioneering Laws to Protect Mail-Order Brides/Trafficking Victims

In an opinion piece posted Wednesday in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Susan Paynter tells the tragic stories of three women, "ordered" from abroad to marry American husbands:
Susana Blackwell, who came here from the Philippines as a mail-order bride, was shot to death in the King County Courthouse on the last day of her divorce trial. Also dead was the 8-month-old fetus she was carrying.

Mail-order bride Anastasia King was murdered by a convicted sex offender recruited by her husband when she tried to end the marriage. Only a few years earlier King had wed and discarded a previous mail-order wife. And, at the time of the killing, he was in the process of "ordering" bride No. 3.

Helen Clement survived, but only barely. She was brought here by an international matchmaking organization for what turned out to be a sham union to a man still living with his ex-spouse. He kept her in servitude, threatening her with deportation.
Last week a Virginia federal appeals court upheld a jury decision against an international marriage broker, awarding the plaintiff, Nataliya Fox, $435,000.


This ruling was aided in part by Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles who passed the first legislation in the country that mandates that US men seeking wives from foreign countries provide a full background check to avoid the tragedies like those detailed above, and that women are informed of their rights under American laws. Fox was not informed by the matchmaking service, Encounters International, that she could report abuse and still stay in the country.

In California, State Assemblymember Sally Leiber (D-San Jose) introduced Assembly Bill 634 last year that seeks to curtail "Mail Order Bride" abuse. This bill would require that marriage brokers obtain a license to operate in the state of California. Employees of these companies would be required to undergo criminal background checks, and those with certain violent criminal histories would be prohibited from practicing. The bill would further require that International Marriage Brokers provide those who come to the U.S. as potential spouses with information about their rights in the U.S. as well as resources for escaping domestic violence.

AB 634 is currently on the California State Senate floor after having passed unanimously in the State Assembly.

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