WASHINGTON (ABP) — A new survey finds broad support across party lines and religious groups for comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the rule of law and respects the dignity and wholeness of immigrants and families.
The study, released March 23 by the Public Religion Research Institute, comes as Congress gears up to debate immigration reform. It found little difference between religious leaders and the average congregation member about what values ought to guide America's immigration policy or whether religious leaders should speak out about immigration issues.
“By a two-to-one margin, American voters strongly support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and they want a solution that reflects strongly held values,” said Robert Jones, the institute’s CEO and co-founder. “More than eight in 10 Americans — including overwhelming majorities of white mainline Protestants, Catholics and white evangelicals — believe strongly that immigration reform should be guided by the values of protecting the dignity of every person and keeping families together as well as by such values as promoting national security and ensuring fairness to taxpayers.”
In the poll — conducted in early March with 1,402 registered voters nationwide plus additional samplings of 402 registered voters each in Arkansas and Ohio — more than 80 percent of voters rated each of four values as “extremely important” or “very important” guidelines for immigration reform:
- Enforcing the rule of law and promoting national security (88 percent)
- Ensuring fairness to taxpayers (84 percent)
- Protecting the dignity of every person (82 percent)
- Keeping families together (80 percent)
There were few significant differences between major religious groups. For example, white evangelical voters were as likely as white mainline, Catholic and unaffilated voters say protecting the personal dignity is a very or extremely important in immigration reform.
A strong majority (71 percent) also said “providing immigrants the same opportunity that I would want if my family were immigrating to the U.S.” — what the study’s sponsors called the “Golden Rule” question — as a very or extremely important value in immigration reform.
“One of the things I discovered in this poll is that there really is broad agreement across denominational lines, and that is very encouraging. And it is very rare in this partisan environment that we have that sort of agreement,” said Rich Nathan, pastor of the 10,000-member Vineyard Church of Columbus in Westerville, Ohio, in a press conference associated with the poll’s release.
Nathan, whose congregation includes members who hail from 75 different countries, said he had personally experienced how broken our nation’s immigration system is — including families of church members separated from their loved ones by deportation or inability to visit sick or dying relatives.
“For us evangelicals, the immigration is a family issue,” he said. “And we’re watching families broken up in our own congregation.”
Robert Marus is managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.