Disclaimer To The Article “Marriage Trap” By Nancy Traver (Chicago Tribune), 
also published on the official website of U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky

(Statement of Elena Petrova, the creator of Russian Brides Cyber Guide http://www.womenrussia.com)


I was pointed out to the article on the website of U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky: http://www.house.gov/schakowsky/article_1_07_04_marriage_trap.html, which mentions my name and the name of my website, Russian Brides Cyber Guide. The information contains several factual errors, which I find significant and I feel those errors should be addressed in this Disclaimer.

Exactly, this is what the article said:

[Start quote] Elena Petrova operates Russian Brides Cyber Guide, an international Web site for men seeking Russian wives. Petrova, who is based in Australia, says the process of obtaining a man’s criminal and marital history and then translating it into Russian would be too time consuming and expensive.

She has launched a petition in St. Petersburg, Russia, to oppose the proposed U.S. law that would regulate online services. She also said the 1999 study by the INS, now the USCIS, which reported 200 online international marriage brokers is outdated; instead, she estimates there are at least 1,000 online services in the United States. [End quote]


This is what is incorrect in the article:

1) I have never launched any petitions to oppose the U.S. law that would regulate online services. 

The author seems to talk about a petition started by a U.S.-based agency, which was distributed in St. Petersburg, Russia, and signed by more than 2,000 Russian women using services of international matchmakers. The petition said that it supported the law but criticized the proposed procedure of background checks as unfeasible.

2) The article misquotes me as saying that “the process of obtaining a man’s criminal and marital history and then translating it into Russian would be too time consuming and expensive”

This is not exactly what I said. I said that the expensiveness and poor logistics of the proposed procedure would make U.S.-based services unable to compete with their overseas counterparts, in a very competitive industry, which will effectively force the U.S.-based services out of business.

The problem is NOT that the background checks will be expensive and time-consuming. The problem is that this will destroy the whole international matchmaking industry in the USA, and there will be nobody to impose the proposed legislation upon, thus making this legislation absolutely unworkable.

Since most people have no idea what is in the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, let me brief you on its contents. The main idea is to oblige an IMB (International Marriage Broker) to request from male-members a criminal background check and details of their marital history before they are allowed to see any profiles of female members. Consequently, no contact between men and women should be allowed until the woman reads this information in her native language and gives her approval. The lawmakers say this will prevent men with criminal background and the history of spousal abuse from marrying foreign women.

On the paper, this might sound workable, but in reality, it is not.

Let’s see what happens. Let’s say there is a service A, which is offshore-based and does not have to comply with this legislation, and there is a service B, which is American-based and has to follow the proposed procedure. 

Service A displays the photos and profiles of their pretty female members and offers immediate contact.

Service B does not display any photos or profiles but treats me as a suspect, requiring from me a background check and details of my marital history, and I will have to wait for a few days until my prospective contacts will agree to talk to me. Besides, prices of the service B are twice as high as of the service A, because they have extra-expenses connected with translations of background checks and shipping them to women, and their responses back to me. 

So, being an intelligent person, which service would I choose? Which service would YOU choose? The one that treats you as a criminal and does not let you see what they offer, and makes you wait for days or even weeks for the service to be delivered, while charging double prices — or the one that shows what they offer, and provides instant service and cheap prices?

I think the answer is obvious. Americans are not intellectually challenged, so they will vote for the service A with their wallets, and service B is out of business.

Yes, the legislation might have been designed with the best intentions and yes, knowledge of marital and criminal history of the prospective spouse is crucial when making a decision to enter a marriage (and not only in the case of international marriages but for people marrying locally, too!) – but the IMBR Act, in its current edition, is simply unworkable: if a service tries to comply with the legislation, they will lose to their competition – and the competition in this business is stiff. There simply won’t be anyone to impose this legislation upon!

Anyone who did not spend the last 5 years in a cave and has a distant knowledge of what Internet is about will be able to see that I am right.

I do not want to elaborate that an abusive man can easily use a service that is exemption from the proposed legislation, such as any large dating site that does not specialize in international introductions but which carry hundreds of thousands of profiles of foreign women. 

It is obvious the proposed procedure of background checks will not be able to protect foreign women from possible spousal abuse, which is what the advertised goal of the legislation is, and since no one can suspect lawmakers in being dim, it is pretty clear they stand by this procedure because it is effective in what they really want to achieve, namely, wiping out the international matchmaking industry in the USA.

3) I do NOT oppose the legislation that would regulate online services in the U.S., or in any other country for this matter, or a legislation, which would guarantee protection for women-immigrants.

As all legitimate matchmakers, I am concerned about the success of my clients and their rights. I want women-immigrants to feel safe in their new countries. But I feel the proposed procedure is not enough to fulfill this important task.

The proposed legislation is stated to promote increased awareness among foreign women about the fact that spousal abuse is illegal in the USA, which is good – but it could me MUCH better.

It should also promote support in regard to the whole lot of immigration issues that are mentioned at the same article – but which are barely addressed in the proposed legislation.

I fully agree with the words of Sherizaan Minwalla, staff attorney at the Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center in Chicago, who is quoted at the same article, talking about challenges that women-immigrants face in their new countries: “They don’t know the language, they’re isolated and alone, they don’t have friends, they don’t know the legal system here and they don’t have any money.”

Those are the problems that should be addressed on the government level in order to remove any possibility for a foreign wife to be subjected to spouse abuse. This is what Congressmen should take care of in their law-making practices. The measures offered in the current edition of the International Marriage Broker Act are definitely not enough.

I believe this is what can be done to prevent any foreign wife from being subjected to spousal abuse, once and forever:

I believe those 4 measures will secure that no foreign wife will ever be subjected to spousal abuse. Men who could be interested in a submissive wife, they will know about this order and that they will not be able to do any harm to her, since the woman knows her rights and how to enforce them, just as any American woman does. Having developed support structures in her new country, the women will not feel helpless and isolated.

The current situation is that the government leaves foreign women to their mercy and then tries to pass the blame onto international matchmakers. 

But for example, I am in Australia; how would I know all the rules and legislations of the United States? Especially they change them so often those days, just as they change the names of the Department of Immigration (INS, BCIS, and now USCIS, what’s next?). But the Department of Immigration itself, they should know their own rules and procedures – who else is better equipped to inform foreign women of their rights, the immigration procedure and the legal system?

Some people may object that this would be expensive, but as the article on the website of Jan Schakowsky imputes, this is nothing comparing to the price of people’s lives. 

If lawmakers were truly concerned about the foreign wives-migrants, this is what should be done to remove any remote possibility for foreign women to be subjected to spousal abuse.

But even those measures may NOT reduce the number of claims of spousal abuse from foreign wives. 

Why? 

Because the current immigration procedure promotes false accusations in spousal abuse.
This is the major reason why the number of such claims increased in the past years.

Currently, a foreign wife cannot be divorced from her American husband within the first two years of marriage without being deported from the USA. The only case where she can leave her husband and stay in the country is if she claims spousal abuse.

Now, let’s look at figures of divorce statistics in “normal” marriages in the USA: 43% of first marriages are estimated to end in divorce, and second marriages fail at a higher rate than do first marriages. More than 20% of marriages fail in the first two years of marriage.

In international marriages women are denied the legal opportunity to end their marriage if it fails in the first two years, which leaves us with possible 20% of international marriages being in trouble without a feasible opportunity to resolve the crisis.

I am certain that if foreign wives were granted unconditional permanent residence right after their marriage – and not after two years of waiting period or on filing a spouse abuse claim – the number of such claims would reduce by at least 80%.

Removing the 2-year waiting period for unconditional permanent resident status would remove the need for foreign wives to file fake abuse claims in order to leave their husbands and stay in the country.

In the situations of real abuse, this change would allow a woman to leave her husband immediately and don’t let the situation to deteriorate to the level where it threatens her life.

Removing the 2-year waiting period would also promote increased responsibility for people entering international relationships and convince them to get to know each other better and be confident in their feelings.

Another much needed measure is extension of fiancee visa period

Currently the fiancee visa allows a foreign fiancee to stay in the country only for 90 days, and then the woman should either be married or leave the country. 

It would be reasonable to extend this period up to 9-12 months so people can be more confident in their feelings and ability to live together under one roof before contemplating marriage. 

Most people have only 2-3 weeks of vacation a year that they can spend with their foreign fiancee. Foreign women are denied applications in tourist and other types of non-immigrant visas if they are in a romantic relationship with a USA citizen, which in the eyes of immigration authorities constitutes an immigration intent. This disallows foreign women to legally enter the USA using any other visa than the fiancee visa.

Many people will agree that 3 months are not enough to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life with this person. 12-month fiancee visa would be more sensible. For example, in Australia fiancee visa is given for 9 months.

So those are my suggestions:

  1. Take care of common immigration issues such as knowledge of the new country, language, isolation and money.
  2. Extend fiancee visa period up to 12 months.
  3. Remove 2-year waiting period for unconditional permanent residence status for foreign wives.

Those measures would ensure drastic reduction both in abuse claims and real spousal abuse in international marriages.


P.S.
Being realistic, I do not hope that lawmakers will consider my suggestions, just as they never answer my complaints and questions. Apparently, they consider my humble person to be important enough to criticize in their articles but not important enough to reply. 

I took this opportunity to clarify my position in regard to regulation of online introduction services and protection for immigrant-women, and to express my dismay in portraying international matchmakers as “a legalized form of international trafficking and sexual slavery”. 

The international matchmaking industry is designed to allow people to search beyond the national borders. International matchmakers are concerned about the success of their clients and their rights not any less than lawmakers. International marriages are NOT a form of human trafficking but the sign of globalization. The number of such marriages will certainly increase in the future, and portraying the international matchmaking industry as some kind of evil appears peculiar for any open-minded person.

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If you’d like more information about this topic, please call Elena Petrova from Russian Brides Cyber Guide at +617.55787977 (9:00-16:00, GMT+10, Australian Eastern Time) or e-mail Elena at http://www.womenrussia.com/contact.htm

More releases from Russian Brides Cyber Guide regarding this topic:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/3/prweb114445.htm
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2003/8/prweb77265.htm
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2003/8/prweb76422.htm


Additional information can be also accessed online at http://www.womenrussia.com/press