Q&A: Undocumented Volunteers

Will our church get in trouble for allowing undocumented immigrants to volunteer in our children’s ministry?

There is a wonderful Christian family that attends our church, contributes to tithes, volunteers in children’s ministry and other ministries. Will our church get in trouble for allowing them to volunteer even though the family is undocumented?
Churches are under no legal obligation to restrict worship services to only those lawfully present in the United States. However, churches should exercise the same level of screening for all volunteers, regardless of their citizen status, to exclude those who may have criminal histories and otherwise pose a risk to children or other congregants.
Many undocumented, especially those in the U.S. for longer periods of time or who are overstays of non-immigrant visas, do possess valid identification documents, such as a driver’s license or a Social Security card. Even if members of this family refuse to undergo a criminal background check for fear that their lack of authorization to be in the United States may be discovered, churches can still run criminal background checks utilizing online criminal databases. Even with just their names and dates of birth, many county and state criminal databases will indicate if any applicant has had any prior arrests or convictions. Some churches are also conducting international background checks to make certain their foreign staff and volunteers have no prior criminal offenses in their homeland before they put them in a position of serving in a church ministry.

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