Cases & Deals

Women's advocacy group wins challenge against international marriage broker

Client(s) Tahirih Justice Center, The

Jones Day Atlanta attorney Randy Hawkins represented the Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit women's advocacy group, as an intervenor-defendant, in a case challenging the constitutionality of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 ("IMBRA"). Europeans Connection & Tours, Inc. ("European Connections"), an international marriage broker ("IMB"), commonly known as "mail-order bride agencies," claimed that the law, which requires IMBs to provide information to foreign women about their legal rights and certain background information concerning their prospective American husbands, infringed upon European Connections' constitutional rights.

The lawsuit represented the first attempt by an IMB to resist the regulation of its industry, which derives its profits from pairing foreign women with American men. The requirements imposed on the industry by the IMBRA seek to ensure that foreign-born women who frequently speak limited English, have no social ties in the U.S., and are unfamiliar with U.S. laws are given sufficient information to decide whether they feel safe entering into such a relationship and know where to find help if the relationship turns abusive. In the course of the lawsuit, the Tahirih Justice Center provided extensive reports, academic articles, press accounts, congressional testimony, and anecdotal evidence of abuse that substantiate the tremendous vulnerability of foreign-born women to abuse and exploitation, especially those who come to the United States through IMBs.

On March 23, 2007, the Court entered an Order upholding the constitutionality of the IMBRA and, accordingly, denying injunctive relief. European Connections & Tours, Inc. v. Gonzales, et al., 480 F. Supp. 2d 1355 (N.D. Ga. 2007). In so doing, the Court noted that "IMBRA is highly likely to reduce domestic abuse - and may actually save lives. The health and safety of foreign women that IMBRA seeks to protect substantially outweighs any pecuniary harm that IMBRA may cause to some IMBs. When balancing the harms in this case, the Court is confronted with the classic 'blood-versus-money' analysis, and the safety of foreign women coming to the United States clearly is the more vital interest." Id. at 1381. European Connections decided not to appeal, effectively ending the case and providing a big win for our client.

European Connections & Tours, Inc. v. Gonzales, et al., 1:06-CV-0426 (N.D. Ga.)