WASHINGTON (June 29, 2000) -- Failure to legislate a permanent extension of the Religious Worker Visa Program would be a disservice to religious communities across the country, the Chairman of the Bishops' Migration Committee cautioned in a statement released today.
"Using this important program, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and their religious organizations in our country can gain access to a small but critical number of religious workers from abroad who in turn assist them in their mission of providing pastoral and social services to U.S. citizens and residents," said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Camden (NJ). "These religious workers play a critical role in enriching the spiritual lives of Americans of faith and provide needed services."
Bishop DiMarzio issued his statement to coincide with a hearing of the U.S. House Immigration and Claims Subcommittee scheduled for this morning. He urged members of the Subcommittee to support legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) which would extend the non-Minister Religious Worker Visa Program permanently. Without congressional action, the program will expire this fall.
In 1990, Congress recognized the special needs of religious denominations and their organizations in establishing the special visa program on a temporary basis. It has been renewed twice, and the U.S. Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the Catholic Bishops in the United States, has urged making the program permanent. Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit testified before the Senate Immigration Subcommittee in April.
"The Catholic Church in the United States has utilized this program to respond to the increasing diversity of our country and membership," Bishop DiMarzio said. "Religious workers from abroad assist the Church here in a variety of ways. We believe that a permanent extension enacted now would provide stability and allow religious groups to plan for the future and prevent the disruptions and uncertainty that pending terminations of this program have caused in the past."
NOTE: Full text of Bishop DiMarzo's statement.