Another Religious Entity Caught Abusing Its People and, this time, R-2 Visas

By David North on May 13, 2021

As I have written earlier, it's hard for our government to take action against immigration fraud involving a church, or something that looks like a church.

The subject a year ago was an Asia-based cult that was abusing F-1 visas; the movement in question was allied with the dictator of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duarte. This involved a Pentecostal entity calling itself the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name, located in California.

Today, in an almost eerie echo of that post, we have another Asia-based cult abusing both its own people and, this time, R-2 visas. It is allied with the authoritarian president of India, Narendra Modi. This is a Hindu operation and it, too, has a long name, according to the New York Times: Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, aka BAPS. The current scandal relates to wages and working conditions at the construction site of a large temple in rural Robinsville, N.J., near Princeton. The workers involved are members of the caste now known as Dalits, a historically disadvantaged group once called “untouchables”.

Three federal agencies — the FBI and the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security — raided the site on May 11; they found, the Times reported, that the workers often worked 13-hour days, moving around heavy stones, and that the employer had confiscated their passports to keep them from leaving their jobs.

In both this year's and last year's cases, the sponsor brought in people from overseas and then exploited them, in the new case by paying construction workers (on R-2 visas) about a dollar per hour. In both cases, the government, despite the awkwardness of moving against a church or church-like entity, has taken action against the miscreants. (I suspect that, contrary to the news article, that the visas were R-2s, not R-1s.)

R-2 visas are for religious workers, R-1s for clergy. The State Department, understandably, is careful with these visas, and in FY 2020 it denied visas to 27 percent of the applicants.

R-1 and R-2 visas are rarely abused by the mainstream Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish entities; the problems usually stem from some other organizations.

This is not a new problem. Ten years ago, when we examined the R visas at length, the question was: What do you do with a middle-sized visa program when two different government agencies find that 30 to 33 percent of its applications are fraudulent?

If you are Congress, you renew it.