Green card weddings | Opinion of the applicant

There’s always been something unsavory about the term “mail-order bride.” Referring to women who marry foreign men, mostly from the United States or any developed country, the label “mail order” derives from the use of third-party arrangements that bind women to men, often in exchange for pay and a so-called “green card” or legal immigration document that allows them to stay and work in the United States.

In the past, arranged marriages were contracted through “brokers” or matchmakers. But these days, marriages are more often arranged through websites where brides-to-be can choose from a range of aspiring brides, much like ordering a device online. The women are even described in exotic detail, emphasizing their “long, straight hair, slender, slender bodies, and supple brown skin.”

Earlier this month, “mail order brides” resurfaced in popular consciousness, years after Republic Act No. 6955 or the Mail Order Brides Act of 1990 declared “unlawful the practice of to marry Filipino women to foreign nationals by mail order”. command base’ in response to reports that many Filipina women are finding themselves abused by their American husbands.

A report released earlier this month said six Filipinos had been charged in the United States with arranging 400 bogus marriages between Filipinos and American citizens. Federal authorities said the six Filipinos and their accomplices earned millions of dollars arranging marriages to illegally obtain green cards for their clients.

Identified as the ringleader of the group was Marcialito Biol Benitez, 48, who is Filipino and who operated an employment agency in Los Angeles as an alleged front for “fictitious arranged marriages that cost between $20,000 and $30,000 per customer”.

Benitez reportedly set up a team of “brokers” who recruited US citizens willing to marry foreigners seeking the proverbial “green card.” If the recruited spouse, who receives an “upfront fee” and monthly payments, proves uncooperative in helping obtain a green card for the client, it has been reported that Benitez’s agency will then charge the fake spouse with abuse. domestic. If the court takes the client’s side, he (or she) could apply for legal permanent resident status without the involvement of his or her spouse.

“These marriages were not love stories,” said Massachusetts attorney Rachael Rollins. “These individuals have committed multiple frauds against the United States government for the explicit purpose of circumventing immigration laws.”

The scandal is ruining the reputation of Filipinos, some of whom have been victims of anti-Asian hate crimes resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. It also reflects the continued oppression of women in countries with struggling economies, who are sold as commodities in online catalogs that portray them as ideal wives for men in wealthier countries.

The website of a US-based “dating” service notes that in 2019 alone, 35,881 fiancée visas were issued to foreign women in the US, including 6,900 from Europe, 15,386 from Asia and 3,367 from South America. “Compared to the 30,999 women who obtained the fiancée visa in 2010, there is a clear and significant growth in the popularity of overseas brides,” the website says.

Although operators of mail-order brides claim that their customers and the women in their catalog are consenting adults, critics describe the system as a form of human trafficking, with marriage brokers profiting from the desperation of poor women and of the loneliness of divorced, elderly or socially isolated men. While encouraging women’s fantasies of a better life abroad with a foreign companion, the sites downplay the risks that unrealistic expectations could bring and the restrictive immigration laws in many countries that trap them in loveless, sometimes violent marriages. Going to the authorities could lead to the expulsion of women for their complicity.

Worse, they could end up like Susana Remerata who was pregnant when she and her two Filipino companions were shot in 1995 by her ex-husband in a courthouse as their annulment was heard. While the women were portrayed as “faithful, submissive, charming, culturally adaptable, family-oriented, religious, and willing to do their husband’s bidding,” Remerata’s husband claimed he was tricked and busted, according to his lawyer.

Following this horrific murder case, proposals were made in the United States to regulate this marriage brokerage business by requiring operators to screen potential brides and grooms for possible crimes or criminal records, psychological profile, etc.

Locally, what is the government’s response to protect women from our end? A quick web search would reveal dozens of mail-order marriage sites, leading one to wonder if RA 6955 was taken seriously. Aren’t these sites illegal? Why do they continue to exist and blatantly advertise their profession?

At the very least, our government must take action to ensure that jobs, opportunities and access to education extend to the countryside where dreamy-eyed girls are gambling their lives and futures in the form of tasty offers in an online catalog.

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