Source: Hindu Press International/Hinduism Today
The Hindu American Foundation was invited by the Department of Justice to join the Faith Leaders' Roundtable Conference. Attended by Attorney General Mukasey, the invitation-only meeting gathered eleven organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregation of America, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and the Sikh Coalition.
HAF Director of Public Policy, Ishani Chowdhury, expressed concerns with the R1 Religious Worker Visa whose category definitions exclude those of the Eastern Faith traditions. She pointed out that such a definition results in denial of new visas and/or renewal of existing visas. This has caused some Hindu temples to abruptly halt ongoing construction work; many are also facing difficulty in obtaining visas for pujaris (priests). "Unlike other faith traditions in the US, the Hindu community does not have seminaries or similar institutions to train native-born Hindus in intricate Vedic practices, and thus rely on the R1 visa to fulfill these requirements," said Chowdhury. "With nearly 1,000 temples nationwide, and assets worth several billion dollars, Hindu temples serve not only as centers for prayer and worship, but as community centers for those who live in cities and towns that may not otherwise have any local Hindu organization nearby. The future of our faith in the US is at stake. "
HAF has been working for several months with members of Congress to resolve this issue.