Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Nope, sorry you can't come in

US CapitolI have some friends who live in England but are running afoul of the visa requirements to come to the United States. They are part of a missionary group that comes to the USA for the National Day of Prayer and they are basically itinerant preachers.

But the State Department says they can't enter the country. I don't know all the particulars, but apparently two of the five team members are not getting visas to get in.

I did some research on the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security web sites. I even checked with my congressman's office. Apparently the U.S. branch of this ministry (of which I am a member) would have to file a form with the Immigration and Customs and Border Protection department.

Come to find out that this form - of course - had to be filed months ago. The team in England is appealing to the U.S. Ambassador, but he is likely to say that rules are rules. Who knows?

Apparently the R-1 visas they are seeking - for religious workers - have been abused by people who wanted to come here illegally. People would say they are priests, nuns, religious workers, etc., and then of course would disappear. The must have felt "called" to stay in the USA illegally and make money. Who knows. Maybe some of them are plotting to kill our people and blow up more buildings. It wouldn't be the first time.

But the State Department says that basically its guy on site has the final say. If you are out under section 214 (B), you are out until you can prove otherwise. And of course, the team of missionaries is supposed to arrive here in the United States next Monday. Whether they will come or whether they will have to cancel (like they did last year) remains to be seen.

When I look at this situation, I sometimes feel like quoting Lawrence Fishburne in The Matrix: "Welcome to the REAL world." I hope that doesn't mean I am being faithless. God is obviously greater than the State Department. But this might fall under Romans 13 where it says the officer is God's messenger and "bears not the sword in vain." Rules are rules. We might not like it, but in this situation, if every "i" is not dotted and every "t" not crossed then the missionaries might be 214(b)'d out of a trip. And they already have bookings in several churches up and down the East Coast.

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