CLINIC Releases New Policy Recommendations To Keep Essential Religious Workers in Service During Pandemic

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A new policy brief from CLINIC outlines recommendations to ensure that essential religious workers are not taken out of service during the pandemic due to backlogs and other issues at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Immigrant religious workers provide vital services to American communities, including serving as Chaplains in hospitals, teaching in schools, giving Mass, and officiating weddings and funerals. Due to systemic issues at USCIS, many foreign-born religious workers have been forced to stop working or leave the country altogether.

Co-author Elnora N. Bassey, Policy Advocate and former Religious Immigration Attorney at CLINIC said: “U.S. religious organizations who employ foreign-born workers are seriously understaffed due to processing delays and faulty USCIS policies. Losing religious workers — who teach, visit the sick and shut in, officiate weddings and funerals, or provide support where needed — is simply damaging to American communities, especially during the pandemic.”

Co-author Megan S. Turngren, Federal Advocacy Liaison and former Religious Immigration Attorney at CLINIC, said: “Churches are having to cancel or alter their hours for services, confession and community activities. Hospitals are without chaplains. Schools are missing teachers. Short-staffed community centers are stretched thin as they try to serve the most vulnerable. These are some of the places where USCIS backlogs affect communities around the United States every day. These are essential jobs and essential workers, and USCIS should change course immediately to treat them as such.”

The recommendations in this policy brief are informed largely through the experiences of CLINIC’s Religious Immigration Services, or RIS, section, which is one of the United States’ largest stakeholders and leading experts in religious immigration law. RIS represents more than 800 foreign-born religious workers serving in more than 120 nonprofit religious organizations annually.

Read the policy brief here.