A Decade of Spouse-Based Immigration Laws: Coverture's Diminishment, but Not Its Demise
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This article argues that legacies of coverture and the resulting legal inequality of women remain in spouse-based immigration laws even after several legislative attempts to address some of the underlying issues. First, there has not been a rejection of the notion of spousal control that underlies coverture. The power to petition, which controls the ability of a non-citizen spouse to live and work and have custody of children in the United States, is basically still the prerogative of a citizen or resident spouse. Second, the mail-order bride business continues without significant limitation on the ability of citizens or residents to dominate and abuse their immigrant wives. Third, while some avenues of relief have been afforded to abused spouses, these changes are insecure because the legislative goal of rejecting domestic violence has subsequently disappeared from the legislative consciousness leading to proposals that would undermine that objective. Coverture in spouse-based immigration has therefore not met its demise and the law continues to sanction the domination of husbands over wives and the underlying gender inequality that this promotes.