Bishop Wester calls on Utah Legislature to push Congress to reform nation's immigration laws

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11 2012 10:00 p.m. MST

Miguel Naranjo, managing attorney, Center for Religious Immigration and Protection, CLINIC, said the federal requirements were tightened after authorities reported that R-1 visas — for religious workers — were being used fraudulently. Visits to sponsors revealed a 33 percent fraud rate, which Naranjo disputes. "We don't believe, and we didn't believe at the time, that it was that high. Nevertheless, they changed the program."

This is not unique to the Catholic Church. Naranjo said while touring Temple Square on Wednesday, he met a LDS missionary from Japan. She, too, had encountered a long wait for her R-1 visa.

"She said 'It took so long.'  That's what we're finding with priests, religious workers, brothers and sisters," Naranjo said.

Emily Butera, senior program officer for the Women's Refugee Commission in Washington, D.C. said one of the most troubling aspects of the nation's troubled immigration system is breaking up families when parents are deported and children become wards of states. Parents facing deportation may be detained far from their children. They may not know about proceedings to terminate their parental rights.

"Once a child is in child protective services, the logistics of working that reunification are all but impossible," Butera said.

The Catholic Church has also become concerned about undocumented immigrants who cannot obtain civil marriage licenses to marry, which means a growing number of couples cohabitate and are in conflict with their church's tenets. 

The Catholic Church has long maintained that marriage is a fundamental right. The Catholic Church was at the forefront of the interracial marriage debate, said Peggy McCormick, a principal in the Chicago law firm Minsky, McCormick and Hallagan and adjunct professor for the Loyola School of Law. 

"The argument was based on religious liberty, not civil rights," McCormick said of the prevailing law on the interracial marriage.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com