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Registration affects N.Y. congregation

A law requiring male visitors from Arab or Muslim countries to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service is affecting ELCA members. Salam Arabic Lutheran Church serves Arab Christians in Brooklyn, N.Y. Many worshipers are here legally. Others are not.

Grace El-Yateem, chair of the ELCA Commission for Multicultural Ministries steering committee and a member of Salam Arabic, said registering can take 12 to 36 hours. Visitors here illegally who register may have their passports confiscated or be deported or imprisoned. "People are coming to us and asking, 'What do we do?'" she said.

Salam Arabic invited Arab American and civil rights groups to the church for presentations and one-on-one consultations about the process.

"They say, 'If someone's hungry, you have to feed them before you minister to them,' " El-Yateem said. "We have much larger things at stake here."

Salam Arabic also helps Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service stay up-to-date on the struggles faced by Arab and Muslim immigrants.

"This is blatant racial profiling. [Sept. 11] gave the government license to do it without any qualms," El-Yateem said.


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