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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

U.S. men and foreign women face roadblock in walk down the aisle

An article on the new Imbra law from the International Herald Tribune/New York Times:
U.S. men and foreign women face roadblock in walk down the aisle

By Eduardo Porter The New York Times

Published: October 17, 2006

PALM COAST, Florida Adam Weaver thought everything was set to bring his Colombian fiancée, Yesenia Meza, to the United States.

But Weaver did not count on being hindered by a congressional effort intended to protect women from potential abuse by American men who seek brides from other countries on the Internet. In June, the federal immigration service froze 10,000 visa applications for foreign fiancées because they did not conform with a law that had gone into effect in March.

Weaver and Meza, who were expecting to be together here by now, were caught in the net.

"Smuggling a ton of cocaine into this country," Weaver fumed, "is probably easier than bringing your fiancée."

The law, known as the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, or Imbra, is intended to give foreign women and the U.S. government more information about the men who seek so-called mail-order brides.

"This is an unequal partnership where you have somebody dependent on somebody else in a profound way," said Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who was a leading sponsor of the law. "It puts women at a significant disadvantage, in a potentially violent situation."

Reports of violence in international marriages, some of them Internet matches, have increased in recent years. In 1998, fewer than 2,500 foreign women applied to become permanent residents under the Violence Against Women Act, which allows abused wives to apply for residence without the support of their husbands. In the fiscal year that ended in September, 9,500 applied.

The government does not keep tabs on international matchmaking, so there are no reliable data on the prevalence of domestic abuse involving mail-order brides. One such case, however, involved Katerina Brunot, a Russian who was 22 when Frank Sheridan, then a 38- year-old plumber, spotted her on a European Connections Web site seven years ago.

After Brunot married Sheridan, it went downhill fast. Her husband kept her a virtual prisoner, beat her, had her put in jail and harassed her. He died in a shootout with a police officer who was trying to arrest him for stalking.

"I think the percentage of men looking for someone from another country who are violent is very high," said Brunot. "Probably most of them want to control because when you are a foreigner you sort of belong to that person."

The new law has angered many men, who rightly argue that there is no definitive evidence that violence is more likely to take place in an international marriage arranged over the Internet than in a domestic one. Unwilling or unable to find a spouse in the United States, some worry that the law could make it more difficult to find a wife abroad.

Under Imbra, dating agencies that specialize in matching American men with women overseas must first obtain information about a man's criminal record and marital history, relay it to the woman and then get her consent before disclosing her contact information. Men must also provide this information to the government when applying for a fiancée visa. Generally, applicants have a lifetime visa limit of two foreign fiancées.

Web sites offer men in affluent countries contacts with women from just about everywhere in the developing world; Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam are among the most popular countries.

The businesses vary in their approaches., owned by European Connections, based in Georgia, charges men for membership and requires a fee for sending and receiving e-mail messages.

Two others, A Foreign Affair and Filipina Ladies, organize trips to places like Bangkok, where a dozen men may meet several hundred women.

At the age of 40, Weaver, a construction manager, figured that the only American women who would be interested in him would be divorced, with a former husband and children in the background. Moreover, he said, American women are self-centered, competitive and too critical. "I would prefer a more old-fashioned girl," he said.

Last year, he found Meza, a Colombian 17 years his junior, on the I Love Latins Web site. "Her profile," he wrote in an e-mail message, "was one of the only ones that said, 'I want to know a man who knows about God.'"

Weaver bought Meza a computer, a digital camera and a high-speed connection so they could talk every day by Internet phone.

In September, he visited Meza in Colombia for the third time. "My relationship with Yesenia," he said, "is real and more valid than anything I ever had in my life."

Meza also says she is eager to start her life with Weaver. "In Colombia most men are womanizers and want to dominate women," she said in a telephone interview. "I want a loving man who will treat me like a queen."

So far, however, they have not cleared immigration. A spokesman for the immigration service said most of the backlogged visa applications frozen in June had been processed.

Supporters of the law insist they are not trying to stop marriages between American men and foreign women but say the women should be informed about what they are getting into.

Two matchmaking companies have sought to block the law in court.

Weaver, for all his exasperation over the wait, acknowledges that providing the extra information required by the law may be warranted.

So does Meza. But they do not see why they should have to suffer in the meantime.

"If men are investigated it will be good for all women," Meza said. "But when you are in love and want to go there, you get desperate." (link)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Order greeting cards by November 18

This is the work of Sharon Hing, who volunteered for Helpers for Domestic Helpers and is running a small fundraiser by turning her paintings in to greeting cards. All proceeds will go to Helpers for Domestic Helpers. More information about what she's doing and the organization can be found on this PDF, but I've pulled the ordering information and the greeting cards to this blog post for people who have trouble downloading the PDF.

Ordering information:

Send an email to SharonHing (at) by November 18, 2006 to reserve your order with the following information:
Phone Numbers (mobile & land line):
How many sets you would like:

She'll be returning to the SF Bay area mid-December and will be delivering the cards and collecting the money then. If you're not in delivery distance there will be an extra fee for postage.

Each set contains one of each design for a total for 4 cards.
1 set - $6.45
2 sets - $10.95
3 sets - $16.40
For orders of 4 sets or more, please request a separate quote in your email.

100% of all sales will go directly to Helpers for Domestic Helpers.

Design #1: I Learned to Speak Up

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
Many domestic helpers endure difficult working conditions in order to provide for their own families. One worker who was denied food by her employer says of her ordeal, "It's so hard for me because I have a family and three children at home whom I support by working in Hong Kong." These women, who are often victims of exploitation by employers and employment agencies, remain resilient in the face of such adversities.

Design #2: And My Worth Was Explicitly Numbered

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
Domestic workers are often subjected to unreasonable demands in attempts by some employers to monitor every aspect of their lives. The absurdity of the demands and the lengths to which some employers go to repress their helpers reflects a lack of respect for these workers. The irony is these workers often play an important role in the care and upbringing of their employers' children.

Design #3: Tagged

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
There are currently 220,000 domestic helpers living in Hong Kong. As a group their presence is undeniable, but they are rarely acknowledged as a crucial element of Hong Kong's economic and cultural success. Their contributions have allowed the city to prosper, yet they are rarely respected and properly acknowledged for their immense contributions to the lives of all Hong Kong residents.

Design #4: Forced Bet

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
With their packed lunches in plastic bags and often a deck of cards in hand, domestic helpers line the streets of Hong Kong for a day of relaxation on Sundays, transforming any shaded area into multi-purpose meeting points. Despite their dmanding jobs, many find time to do volunteer work while others find solace in community and religious groups. As workers and community members, their presence enriches the culture and social fabric of the city.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

greeting cards benefitting domestic helpers

I got this from my brother's friend:

Dear Friends,

As some of you know, for the past year I have had the immense privilege of volunteering at Helpers for Domestic Helpers (HDH) in Hong Kong, a legal aid organization dedicated to providing the city's 220,000 domestic helpers with legal assistance and counseling. ( This experience has been profoundly moving, and I recognized that I could begin to express my appreciation for this amazing organization with a small-scale fundraiser. I started several series of paintings about the women's often harrowing stories of injustice for my personal record keeping and as a means of processing and coming to terms with their experiences; however, I realized that in sharing these pieces I could help to educate the public about the often overlooked contributions of these workers. Four of these paintings are now featured on greeting cards, which provide a bit of information on the lives of domestic helpers in Hong Kong as well as the work of HDH.

The four designs are non-holiday specific, have blank interiors, and hopefully you will find them appropriate for any type of correspondence. Because we have full sponsorship of the production of the cards, every cent of every sale will go to continuing the important work of HDH.

The cards will be on sale at card fairs and bookstores in Hong Kong, but thanks to the magic of modern technology they can also make it off the island to you. If you are interested in purchasing a set, please email me at your earliest convenience so that I will be sure to bring then to you when I return in December.

All designs, more background information, and an order form can be found in this handy

Please also feel free to print up this information and share it with your friends and colleagues.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your support throughout this entire adventure and I look forward to seeing you all soon!

With love and respect,


Super quick info...more can be found in the pdf:

According to the Hong Kong Immigration Department records, there are 220,000 domestic helpers living in Hong Kong. Filipinos comprise 55% of the foreign domestic helper population and the remainder is made up primarily of Indonesians, Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalese nationals. Most of them are women and as a group their presence in Hong Kong is undeniable, but they are rarely acknowledged as a crucial element of Hong Kong's economic and cultural success as a city. Their presence has allowed the city to prosper and they have helped to raise Hong Kong's next generation of leaders in the community. As opposed to being lauded for their work, however, they are often victims of discrimination, injustice, abuse and exploitation.

International Sex Trade in California

The SF Chronicle ran a four part special report on the sex-trade industry in California. This one in particular focused on the Korean community and the Asian masseuse parlors that create the front for brothels. The article tells the story of one woman who was able to get out, but who got in after becoming enslaved by her credit card debt back home. They call San Francisco, the "mecca", for sex trade, with a few pushing out into the suburbs.