Take 5

Religious Institutions Challenge USCIS Regulations in Court

A group of tax-exempt religious institutions has filed a lawsuit against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Director of the USCIS California Service Center Donna P. Campagnolo. The plaintiffs, which include the Society of the Divine Word, National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in the United States, Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church, and others, allege that the defendants’ regulations, policies, and practices violate the U.S. Constitution and various federal statutes.

The complaint alleges violations of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The plaintiffs argue that the defendants’ regulations discriminate against U.S.-based religious employers and their selected international religious workers, interfering with their rights to appoint and employ ministers.

The plaintiffs, as tax-exempt religious institutions, claim that they exercise their religious beliefs and advance them in practice by employing foreign-born ministers and international religious workers. They argue that the USCIS’s regulation governing concurrent filing of visa petitions and applications for adjustment of status for EB-4 petitioners, 8 C.F.R. § 245.2(a)(2)(i)(B), results in processing delays that harm them because their employees are time-limited by R-1 status.

The court has denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The case is currently pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

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