chapter  6
19 Pages

Circulation of desire: The security governance of the international ‘mail-order brides’ industry


The link between marriage, family, the economy and the nation is a powerful one. Recent events in the United States, from the adoption of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act to state referendums on same-sex marriage during the 2004 presidential elections remind us that more than being a private domestic arrangement, marriage is a political institution. But despite the fact that international marriage is currently the primary reason why people migrate to the United States and that marriage migration to the United States has almost tripled between 1960 and 1997, increasing from 9 per cent to 25 per cent of all immigration (Constable 2005: 4), it is striking that so few studies have tried to examine and analyse this trend along with its various political implications. Yet, this has not prevented the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify transnational marriage and its potential for fraud as a ‘threat to national security’. One subgroup of marriage migrants has caught the state’s attention: the so-called ‘mail-order brides’ (Winston 2008: 1, 4).