Religious Worker Visas are Unfairly Denied to Hindus — Hindu American Foundation Asks for Changes to Immigration Regulations

June 6, 2007

Source: The Hindu American Foundation

[hinduamericanfoundation.org/media_press_release_r1.htm]

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 6, 2007) – The legal advisory team of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) recently submitted extensive comments to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding proposed changes to the religious worker (R-1) visa program. After consultation with other Hindu institutions and temples including the Council of Hindu Temples of America, Saiva Siddhanta Church and Hinduism Today magazine, the Foundation’s legal division prepared the submission in response to mounting alarm in the Hindu community that Hindu priests, temple artisans and traditional temple architects were increasingly being denied religious worker visas. The Foundation writes that the proposed new regulations, in response to reports of abuse of the R-1 program, are reactionary and oblique enough to affect many religious institutions in this country, but could disproportionately and unfairly impact Hindus.

While agreeing that combating immigration fraud is in the national interest, the foundation’s submission argues that the proposed changes contain terminology, definitions and specific regulations that fail to recognize the unique vocabulary of non-Judeo-Christian religious traditions. The brief maintains that defining eligibility for R-1 status using terms such as “liturgical workers, catechists, cantors, missionaries, and ritual slaughter supervisors...may potentially serve to discriminate against those organizations that differ from the practice, structure and function of the Judeo-Christian guidelines upon which the regulations are based.”