WASHINGTON (April 13, 2000) -- A visa program which allows foreign religious pastoral workers to enter the United States should be extended permanently, according to Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida, who today testified before the Senate Immigration Subcommittee.
"Should the program be permitted to expire at the end of this fiscal year, religious organizations and denominations will lose access to the much needed contributions of these religious workers, as would the many communities in which they work."
The current law, which allows for religious sisters, brothers, catechists, and other non-ordained religious workers to enter the United States is set to expire on September 30. Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI), chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, has introduced legislation, S. 2406, which would extend the program permanently.
Cardinal Maida said the permanent extension of the visa program "would provide the stability religious organizations require to plan for their personnel needs and prevent the disruptions and uncertainty that impending terminations of this program have caused in this and previous years."
It is estimated that as many as 50 percent of 192 Catholic dioceses in the United States utilize the program to sponsor religious workers from abroad.