Friday, April 20, 2007

Religious work visa fraud

The Homeland Security Department plans to begin inspecting religious organizations in an effort to prevent radical groups from using a special government visa program to get terrorists into the country.

Officials say they have uncovered rampant fraud in a religious worker visa program that allows thousands of foreigners into the USA each year.

"We found that the program had been compromised and the fraud rate was excessively high," said Emilio Gonzalez, head of Citizen and Immigration Services at Homeland Security.

Government investigators first uncovered problems with the visa program in 1999, including applicants who were unqualified for the jobs they were hired for. Last year, a fraud-detection unit in the Homeland Security Department found that 33% of the visas investigators examined were granted based on fraudulent information.

The visa program was established in 1990 to allow churches, synagogues and mosques struggling to fill jobs to hire qualified foreigners. Under the program, applicants must have a sponsor in the USA and attest that they are qualified to fill a particular job.

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