The Crescent Report

November 5, 2007

MAS Freedom Joins Rep. Markey in Requesting USCIS Solicitation of Religious Community Input on Changes to R-1 Visa Rules

Filed under: Immigration — Tags: , — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 8:23 pm

Narrow Scope of Proposals Jeopardizes U.S. Standard for Religious Tolerance Threatening Discrimination Against 1,000’s

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Nov. 5, 2007 – MAS Freedom (MASF), as the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society (MAS), urges the Muslim and interfaith communities to stand in solidarity with Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Malden), in calling on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting that they consult with and incorporate the feedback of the interfaith community before implementing proposed changes to R-1 Religious Worker Visa Rules, that could result in discrimination against 1,000’s of foreign religious workers.

Revisions to the classifications for R-1 visa rules have stemmed from widespread reports of fraud and abuse of the R-1 Visa, but as Markey, also a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee offers in his October 30, 2007 letter to USCIS, “In seeking to improve the R-1 visa rules, we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. While I applaud the efforts of Homeland Security officials to reduce fraud in the R-1 program, the proposed changes must not exclude or impede legitimate visa applicants of non-Judeo-Christian faiths.”

A key change proposed to the R-1 Visa rules would require employers to submit an attestation verifying the worker’s qualifications, the nature of the job offered and the legitimacy of the organization.

“USCIS should bear in mind that religious workers of certain faiths do not receive seminary-type training and not all faiths are governed by a central body, and therefore, the absence of these factors should not automatically disqualify an individual seeking an R-1 visa,” Rep. Markey stated in his letter to USCIS.”

An overly restrictive final rule on R-1 visas could greatly impact the ability of those unable to provide evidence of ‘seminary-type’ training from fully practicing their faith.

“We are a tolerant and inclusive society and our laws should reflect these values,” stated Markey.

The historically recognized U.S. standard for religious tolerance is jeopardized if the restrictive changes currently being considered are implemented.  “The result would be a domino effect of discrimination against 1,000’s of foreign religious workers,” stated MAS Freedom Executive Director, Mahdi Bray.

MAS Freedom joins Rep. Markey in calling on USCIS to promulgate a final R-1 Visa rule that, “provides a religious worker visa classification that appropriately balances the need to prevent fraud with the imperative to remain open to legitimate religious workers of all faiths.”

Other proposed revisions include:

  • A reduction in the initial period of admission for a non-immigrant from three years to one.

  • The beneficiary (religious worker) will no longer be able to obtain an R-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad or at a port-of-entry without prior approval of the Form I-129, filed by a prospective or existing employer and submitted to USCIS for approval.

A detailed outline of proposed changes to the R-1 Religious Worker Visa Classification can be found in the USCIS Fact Sheet.

On November 1, USCIS announced that it has re-opened the comment period on proposed rule changes for Religious Worker Visa Classifications until November 16, 2007.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP!

  • Religious faith leaders and community members should echo Rep. Markey’s concerns in letter writing campaigns offering suggestions for appropriate adjustments to the R-1 Visa Rules.

IMPORTANT: To ensure proper handling of your letters, please reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2005-0030 on your correspondence.

Letters may be addressed as follows:

Mr. Richard A. Sloan

Director, Regulatory Management Division

Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

111 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., 3rd Floor

Washington, D.C. 20529

This mailing address may also be used for paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions:

Letters may also be sent via mail, fax or email to:

Rodger Pitcairn, Adjudications

Officer, Service Center Operations

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Department of Homeland Security

111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., 3rd Floor

Washington, DC 20529

Telephone: (202) 272-8410

Fax: (202) 272-1398

E-mail: rodger.pitcairn@dhs.gov

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