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[Congressional Record: September 19, 2000 (House)]
[Page H7778-H7780]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr19se00-109]                         



                              {time}  1400
 
                     RELIGIOUS WORKERS ACT OF 2000

  Mr. PEASE. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill 
(H.R. 4068) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to extend for 
an additional 3 years the special immigrant religious worker program.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                               H.R. 4068

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Religious Workers Act of 
     2000''.

     SEC. 2. 3-YEAR EXTENSION OF SPECIAL IMMIGRANT RELIGIOUS 
                   WORKER PROGRAM.

       (a) In General.--Section 101(a)(27)(C)(ii) of the 
     Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(C)(ii)) 
     is amended by striking ``2000,'' each place it appears and 
     inserting ``2003,''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by subsection (a) 
     shall take effect on October 1, 2000.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Isakson). Pursuant to the rule, the 
gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pease) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. 
Jackson-Lee) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pease).


                             General Leave

  Mr. PEASE. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks 
and include extraneous material on H.R. 4068.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Indiana?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. PEASE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a program 
exists which authorizes religious denominations throughout the United 
States to sponsor nonminister workers in religious vocations and 
religious occupations, such as lay workers, to enter the United States 
as permanent residents.
  This program also authorizes visas for temporary nonimmigrant 
religious workers who will serve for a period not exceeding 5 years. 
This program was created by Congress in 1990 and has been extended 
several times. The nonminister religious worker programs will expire 
September 30th of this year; therefore, an extension of the existing 
program is necessary and must be accomplished with expediency.
  As it exists, the legislation requires that an immigrant religious 
worker has been carrying on such vocation continuously for at least the 
2-year period immediately preceding the time of application. This 
requirement was thought to reduce the likelihood of fraudulent 
applications; however, the Department of Justice and the INS have 
raised concerns regarding suspected fraud existent in the program.
  Because of a vague definition of religious worker and the inability 
to require other precise definitions of religion, there has been 
suggestion of fraudulent applications in both the temporary and 
permanent categories.
  In opposition to the views of the Department of Justice and the INS, 
religious institutions assert that a quantity of fraudulent 
applications has not been verified. The religious institutions hold the 
view that the limited number of visas granted per year for the 
nonminister aliens, which is not to exceed 5,000 persons, does not 
demand the addition of antifraud provisions to the existing programs.
  In order to accommodate the interests of both the administration and 
the

[[Page H7779]]

religious institutions, provisions to prevent fraudulent applications 
were discussed. Despite numerous attempts to find a resolution to these 
concerns and extend the program permanently, there remains disagreement 
as to the suggested antifraud provisions. Therefore, this bill will 
extend the existing Religious Worker Visa program for an additional 3 
years.
  Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that within that time, Congress will 
develop an acceptable program which reduces potential fraud, yet not 
require excessive administrative demands on the religious institutions 
which utilize this program.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote for H.R. 4068 and thereby 
approve a 3-year extension of the existing important program.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman 
from Texas (Mr. Smith), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration 
and Claims.
  (Mr. SMITH of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and 
extend his remarks.)
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Indiana 
(Mr. Pease), my friend, for yielding the time to me.
  Mr. Speaker, I am happy to play a part in the creation of the 
Religious Worker Program in 1990. I support these visas since they 
allow American religious denominations, large and small, to benefit by 
the addition of committed religious workers from overseas.
  The visa program expires at the end of the fiscal year September 30. 
H.R. 4068, introduced by our colleague, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. 
Pease), extends the program for 3 additional years until October 2003.
  Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman for all the good work he 
has done on this issue. I urge my colleagues to support the bill.
  Mr. PEASE. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  (Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas asked and was given permission to revise 
and extend her remarks.)
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I want to add my accolades and 
appreciation to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pease) for H.R. 4068, 
and also note the great work of the gentlewoman from California (Ms. 
Lofgren) on this matter and thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith), 
the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, for his 
work on the Religious Workers Act of 2000.
  Mr. Speaker, this legislation has the support of the U.S. Catholic 
Conference, the Lutheran Immigration Service and many other religious 
organizations. It is a vital piece of legislation that again raises its 
head in unity of Republicans and Democrats.
  This legislation allows religious organizations to sponsor 
nonminister religious workers from abroad to perform service in the 
United States. Examples of nonminister related work are included, but 
not limited to nuns, religious brothers, catechists, cantors, pastoral 
service workers, missionaries, and religious broadcasters. Such 
individuals make important contributions to the United States by caring 
for the sick, the aged, providing shelter and nutrition to the most 
needy, supporting families in crisis and working with the religious 
leaders.
  Mr. Speaker, this country has always had a history of involving the 
religious community in public service or voluntaryism, helping the most 
needy of our community, and this legislation allows this to happen.
  I would have liked this legislation to have been permanent, but it 
extends it for 3 years. I hope during this time frame we will be able 
to see the value of these religious workers and ensure that we work to 
keep them. Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to support this 
legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, the Non-Minister Religious Worker Visa Program, 
originally enacted as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 
1990, allows religious organizations to sponsor non-minister religious 
workers from abroad to perform service in the United States. Examples 
of non-minister religious workers include but are not limited to: nuns, 
religious brothers, catechists, cantors, pastoral service workers, 
missionaries, and religious broadcasters. Such individuals make 
important contributions to the United States by: caring for the sick 
and aged, providing shelter and nutrition to the most needy, supporting 
families in crisis, and working with religious leaders.
  The program is composed of two parts. Part one, the Special 
Immigration provision, provides for up to 5,000 Special Immigrant visas 
per year. Once granted, this type of visa allows religious workers to 
permanently immigrant to the United States. Under current law, this 
part of the program will expire on September 30, 2000. While this bill 
will extend the program for an additional 3 years, we really need a 
bill that makes the program permanent.
  The Executive Director of the Lutheran Immigration Service has stated 
that, ``Foreign lay religious workers admitted to the United States 
under this provision serve very important and traditional religious 
functions in the congregations and the communities where they work and 
live . . . in many communities, there is an increasing need for 
religious workers who can help develop or start congregations for 
certain ethnic or language groups . . . and Congress should extend the 
provision permanently so that religious denominations may implement, 
without any trepidation, long-term strategic plans that rely on lay 
foreign workers.'' However, I support this bill as it does extend the 
program for 3 years.
  I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as she may consume to the gentlewoman 
from California (Ms. Lofgren), who has worked very hard on this 
legislation. I thank her for her leadership on it.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of extending the 
religious worker visa program. I applaud my colleagues for recognizing 
the importance of this provision to religious communities across 
America.
  My only reservation to the passage of this bill is the temporary 
nature of the extension. I believe that Congress should extend the 
religious worker program permanently. I believe that the Catholic 
Church, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the Christian 
Science Church, the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints and 
other churches, synagogues, temples and mosques across America have 
much worthier work to accomplish than lobbying politicians every 3 
years to allow a few thousand nuns, monks, sisters, brothers, cantors 
and other religious workers to enter this country.
  Religious workers are among the most valuable members of our American 
society. They come to America at the call of their church and expect 
only the opportunity to serve. The services they provide to the 
communities they become a part of are immeasurable. For example, 
religious workers are involved in caring and ministering to the sick 
and elderly. Think about the hospitals and local hospice care 
facilities across the country and the comfort those who offer spiritual 
solace provide.
  These facilities and their patients are all the better for our 
religious workers. Religious workers work with adolescents and young 
adults offering them spiritual guidance and counsel at a critical time 
in their lives.
  Religious workers are involved in helping refugees adjust to a new 
way of life. Think of how frightening it must be to come to a new land 
and how welcoming it must be to know that you still have a church, 
where someone can lead a prayer in the language of your parents.
  Most importantly, religious workers help our poor. Mr. Speaker, 3 
years ago, in 1997, I read a letter from Mother Teresa urging Congress 
to extend this program. She said ``my sisters serve the poor in Detroit 
where we have a soup kitchen and a night shelter for women. Let us all 
thank God for this chance to serve his poor.''
  That letter moved me and many of my colleagues to create legislation 
that would extend this provision permanently. While I applaud Congress 
for bringing this H.R. 4068 to the floor, I wish with all my heart that 
I could make this extension a permanent one.
  I thank all of my colleagues who have worked with me on this issue, 
and I especially want to thank the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pease) 
for his willingness to reach across the aisle to work with me on this 
important issue and for his successful struggle to bring a good 
resolution, although not a perfect one, to the floor today. I thank the 
gentleman and I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.

[[Page H7780]]

  Mr. Speaker, I hope that we can fix this, as we can fix other 
immigration issues, and I ask my colleagues to support this 
legislation. And I thank the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pease) for his 
leadership.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. PEASE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the work of the gentleman from 
Texas (Mr. Smith), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and 
Claims; the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee), the ranking 
member of the subcommittee; and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. 
Lofgren) and the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Cannon), all of whom spent a 
great deal of time with us and with staff and with representatives of 
the religious denominations trying to meet the objections that were 
raised by the Department of Justice and the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service.
  Mr. Speaker, it was the most candid, open, honest, effort that I have 
seen during my time here to reach a consensus; everyone operating in 
good faith. We have before us what I believe is a good bill. It is not 
a perfect bill. But under the circumstances and given the urgency of 
time, I believe it is the best we can do for the most. I would 
encourage all my colleagues to support the legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Scarborough). The question is on the 
motion offered by the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pease) that the House 
suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 4068.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor 
thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________





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