2 Local Imams Arrested in Alleged Visa Scheme

November 16, 2006

Author: Yvonne Abraham and Raja Mishra

Source: The Boston Globe


Federal immigration agents arrested imams from two Boston-area mosques yesterday on charges they were involved in a scheme that provided religious worker visas to immigrants who used them to enter the United States and work instead as gas station attendants, truck drivers, and factory laborers. Article Tools

Hafiz Abdul Hannan , imam , or leader, of the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell in Chelmsford, and Muhammed Masood , imam of the Islamic Center of New England in Sharon, were among 33 people taken into custody nationwide after a multi-year investigation led by agents in Boston and New York, said Paula Grenier , a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"This was a nationwide religious worker visa fraud scheme designed to help illegal aliens," said Grenier. "These people had to be solely engaged in religious employment, and in many cases were not."

Under the Religious Worker Program, started in 1990, churches, synagogues, and mosques can ask the government to approve visas for foreigners to fill vacant positions. Several thousand visas are issued each year that permit immigrants to enter the United States exclusively for religious employment. To obtain the visa, immigrants must have religious training and experience in their native country. Once here, they are not allowed to hold secular jobs. The religious worker permits can ultimately lead to green cards, or permanent residency.