Pakistanis posing as church workers arrested
The arrested worked as attendants in gasoline stations, taxi drivers, landscapers and factory workers.india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 08:34 IST
Dozens of Pakistani immigrants who came to the United States posing as religious workers were arrested as Homeland Security agents tried to close a commonly exploited avenue for aliens to get into the country.
Immigrants who were supposed to be teaching or conducting religious ceremonies were arrested across the East Coast on Wednesday where authorities said many worked as attendants in gasoline stations, taxi drivers, landscapers and factory workers.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have been scrutinising the religious worker visa programme, which a 2005 review found was rife with problems. Homeland Security officials found fraud in one out of every three religious visas they reviewed.
Churches that sponsored the workers turned out not to exist, workers could not be found and addresses could not be verified, the study said. In one incident, the address on the visa application was found to have been used by a terrorist suspect.
Most of the 33 people arrested on Wednesday were from Pakistan. Authorities said there was no indication of a terrorist threat. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the aliens paid large cash fees to get people or organisations to sponsor them for visas.
Arrests were made in eight states, mostly along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Washington.
In June, Washington state pastor Dong Wan Park was convicted of helping South Korean nationals file fraudulent religious visa applications.