Marriages of Convenience: International Marriage Brokers, 'Mail-Order Brides,' and Domestic Servitude

29 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2007

See all articles by Suzanne H. Jackson

Suzanne H. Jackson

George Washington University - Law School


The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) expands federal regulation of the burgeoning "mail-order bride" industry by requiring international matchmaking agencies to conduct minimal criminal background checks on their U.S.-based clients and disclose the results to participating women, obtaining their signed consent before releasing any contact information to male clients. Two federal suits challenging IMBRA complain that it violates equal protection guarantees by exempting not-for-profit and religious matchmaking agencies, and violates First Amendment protections for commercial speech by regulating the agencies' communications with its clients. Defenders of the law's constitutionality accurately but incompletely describe IMBRA's purpose as preventing domestic violence and human trafficking against immigrant women. IMBRA is also intended to target a form of involuntary servitude hidden by marriage: forced and coerced extortion of domestic and sexual services, practices intrinsic to women's experiences of slavery in the United States. IMBRA is, therefore, a legitimate exercise of Congress' authority under the Thirteenth Amendment. Failure to prosecute crimes of involuntary servitude arising in the domestic sphere leaves women and girls without adequate and equal protection of the law.

Keywords: mail-order bride industry, Thirteenth Amendment, involuntary servitude, marriage, immigration, fiancee visas, International Mail-Order Bride Regulation Act of 2005

JEL Classification: D13, F33, H31, J12, J16, K42

Suggested Citation

Jackson, Suzanne H., Marriages of Convenience: International Marriage Brokers, 'Mail-Order Brides,' and Domestic Servitude. University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 895, 2007, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 337, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 337, Available at SSRN:

Suzanne H. Jackson (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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