On January 5, 2006, President Bush signed the International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 ("IMBRA"), found at Title VIII, Subtitle D of Public Law No. 109-162 which itself reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act.
IMBRA imposes certain requirements on Internet dating services that primarily focus on matching American men with foreign women. Before allowing an American to communicate with a foreign woman, an Internet dating service must conduct a criminal background check on the man, a sex-offender check on him and require him to complete a questionnaire detailing his previous arrests, convictions, marriages, divorces, children and all states of residence since he turned eighteen.
As one might imagine, IMBRA has been unpopular with American men who claim that it unfairly presumes they will abuse their future foreign spouses.
Why did Congress pass this law? A court that ruled on IMBRA’s constitutionality explained:
The rates of domestic violence against immigrant women are much higher than those of the U.S. population as a whole and have in common with women brokered through international marriage brokers a number of factors, including the dependency of the immigrant woman on the U.S. citizen for her legal status. An estimated 70% of abusive U.S. citizen spouses, including those who consummate relationships through [International Marriage Brokers], withhold the filing of the proper paperwork necessary to validate the legal status of their immigrant female partners to cause them to fall out of legal status and to hold the threat of jail or deportation over the woman. Estimates by the National Institute on Justice are that over 73 percent of domestic violence cases go unreported.
An international marriage broker called European Connections & Tours, Inc., sued to have IMBRA declared unconstitutional. European Connections contended that IMBRA posed an impermissible prior restraint on European Connections’ free speech rights. A federal district court in Georgia upheld IMBRA’s requirements.