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Washington — A new law that insulates religious groups from prosecution if they use illegal immigrants as volunteers drew outrage Monday from U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who said it will protect terrorists and that he’ll work to repeal it.
“This provision opens a hole in our immigration system so big, a terrorist could drive a truck bomb through it,” Tancredo, a Littleton Republican, said in a statement.
“Terrorists in the United States have used religious organizations as fronts before,” he said. “This provides legal cover for any church, synagogue, mosque or group that calls itself a religion to aid and abet illegals who may pose a national security threat.”
Written by Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, the provision shields religious groups from a federal law against knowingly transporting, concealing, harboring or shielding an illegal immigrant.
That law no longer applies to religious groups as long as the illegal immigrant is volunteering in a religious capacity, such as work as a missionary or in a soup kitchen.
Bennett, chairman of the Senate committee that funds agricultural programs, added the language to a funding bill for the Agriculture Department. It was signed into law Thursday by President Bush.
Bennett wrote the provision at the behest of attorneys for the Mormon Church, which, according to Bennett, uses the largest number of volunteers of any U.S. religious group.
A spokesman for the church, Michael Purdy, said the law will allow illegal immigrants to serve as Mormon missionaries, which they previously could not do.
(Posted on November 16, 2005)