Posted on

An International Underground Railroad?

There are so many Korean churches in the US (especially per Korean capita) that it is almost absurd to think that all of them exist for religious God-given purposes. You don’t even need to be a cynic to think that Korean churches are so prolific that we’ve had diminishing marginal returns for quite some time.

But that point aside, I had once heard that the ethnic church was often used as vehicles to sponsor potential immigrants visas and helping people get into the country. On one hand, this could be seen as a subversive act to unfair immigration practices of the US government, a big middle finger to the system that offers hope to some but not to all, but when I heard of this practice, I thought it was heinous. Namely because it was rarely subversive and the church was often manipulated or bribed into doing so. Many false churches were established legally to do this, but operated only in a home, just to get the cousin of the pastor over from Korea to be the new choir director because she could play the piano. Once she was here, then they could vouch for the family and so on and so forth.

Furthermore, I heard that because many seminaries and theological schools don’t require the GRE, people simply opted for these graduate level schools just to come here, get an master’s degree in Divinity (how pretentious and ironic), so they could legitimately acquire visa sponsorship in larger churches in the US. Perhaps the motive wasn’t sooooo ulterior, but it certainly makes it difficult as to what it is that draws such cream of the crop to ethnic churches, doesn’t it? Particularly in an ethnic minority where serving the church isn’t frowned upon.

Well, it looks like those days are over. Religious visa criteria are being revised:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they have finished revising the religious (RI) visa application criteria . Its hoped this will curb RI visa fraud, which is on the rise, reports The World Journal. As a result, USCIS stopped issuing those visas. Before the new regulation no official document was required to apply for RI visas. Now religious organizations hiring foreign religious workers must turn in an I-129 form with the application, which is similar to the application process of H1B work visas. New RI visas are effective for only 30 months rather than three years before the change.

And while I should be happy that fraudulent churches engaging in such acts will be prevented, I’m a little mournful for those churches that were operating in a subversive sense to help broken families be reunited or circumventing an immigration system that can appear very capricious at times.

By and large, Asian Americans don’t look back to those wanting to come here, and we haven’t really been holding the door open for them either (h/t: Slant Eye for The Round Eye). So it makes me wonder, were the Korean churches acting as a type of international underground railroad for some? Or has a mockery of the church been plucked out?


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s