Some of you might remember this period of time better than I, but I can recall a huge issue in the mid 80’s with the lack of qualified “legal” brothers “reaching out” in my circuit while we had an unusual spike in Bible Studies (mainly undocumented immigrants and Visa overstays from central and South America). Many of these new Bible Studies were actually very well educated but most knew little to no English, so they eventually settled into their nearest Spanish congregations.
As they “progressed in the truth”, the Society saw huge potential in these illegal immigrants but could not give them any privileges beyond cleaning the toilets after meetings… until the 1986 Amnesty Program.
However, this program required proof that they were in the US since before 1982 and a large percentage of these illegal immigrant Bible Studies snuck in after 1982. In fact, the largest surge started in 1983 and continued well into the 90’s. It got so bad that Kingdom Halls in certain parts of the US simply had NO qualified legal brothers to fill the numerous elder vacancies that this unexpected situation created.
Then, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was signed giving the Watchtower some hope that they would finally be able to fill these elder vacancies.
So, after feeling the pressure, the Society finally put out this BOE Letter on May 20, 1987 which (in part) states the following:
“[…] If brothers making application under this law ask the body of elders for an affidavit because they are not able to prove through other means their presence in the country since before January 1, 1982, then it is permissible for the elders to provide an affidavit, but this should be done only as a last resort. Attached is a sample of an affidavit that the elders could provide. You will not want to say any more than what is included in this sample affidavit.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has authorized certain voluntary agencies and other non-profit groups as Qualified Designated Entities to help undocumented persons to gain legalization. Some of these are religious organizations. Some have asked whether a Christian could go to one of these religious organizations that has been authorized by the INS. Of course, it would be preferable if the brothers who want to take advantage of this law would go to volunteer agencies that are not religious. However, if the only agency authorized in their community is a religious organization, and they decide to go to such for assistance with their application, then the fees that would be paid would be viewed as paying for services rendered rather than as contributing to a false religious organization. […]”
So there you have it… With a simple BOE letter (and a wink, wink), the Society magically filled all the elder vacancies that were putting a huge strain on their precious operations in the US… even if that meant going to “Babylon The Great” (ran by Satan) for assistance or fudging some dates on legal affidavits. It was all in the name of theocratic warfare I guess.
Anyways, are any of you old enough to remember this? What was your recollection of this?