Sunday, May 15, 2011

Court Rejects Challenge To Religious Workers Visa Rules

In Ruiz-Diaz v. United States, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50433 (WD WA, May 10, 2011), a Washington federal district court rejected a challenge to immigration rules that treat religious workers applying to adjust their immigration status to become permanent residents differently from those in various other employment-based preference categories. Special immigrant visa holders, including religious workers, are precluded from filing their own form I-485 application until U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has approved their employer's Form I-360 petition on their behalf.  This creates a risk of the alien being treated as unlawfully present in the country-- a designation that is triggered if the I-485 is not on file before the alien's original 5-year visa period expires. Other aliens may file a Form I-485 concurrently with an employer's Form I-360. The court rejected plaintiffs' class action RFRA and Free Exercise claims, finding that plaintiffs had not shown a substantial burden on their free exercise of religion. It rejected plaintiffs' equal protection claim, finding that the rule was rationally related to deterring fraud. The court also rejected plaintiffs' due process challenge.