Evangelicals Revolt Against Clergy's Immigration Push

Civil Rights

NASHVILLE (Feb. 24, 2014) -- Biblical teaching about treatment of foreigners is more of a command to apply the law humanely to illegal immigrants than to give them work permits, according to three of four evangelical voters in a poll released here today at the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention.

The 20-question Pulse Opinion Research survey of 1,000 evangelical likely voters of all ideologies and demographics found that, when considering the country's unemployed, the overwhelming majority of evangelicals favored fully enforcing immigration laws and reducing legal immigration by at least half.

Only 12% of evangelical voters agreed with the view that the Old Testament verses in which "God commands the ancient Israelites to love the stranger as themselves" mean that "the U.S. government should offer work permits and legal status to illegal immigrants."

Instead, 78% chose the interpretation that God's command "means the U.S. government should offer humane treatment while fairly applying the law.

The results were in sharp contrast to the views of the evangelical leaders who have been part of a well-funded and highly publicized advertising and lobbying campaign to use scripture to promote "comprehensive immigration reform" like that passed last year by the Senate.  That bill would offer work permits to up to 12 million illegal immigrants and double legal immigration over the next decade.

The survey asked evangelicals if restrictive immigration laws violate or follow biblical teachings?  By a 5-1 margin, evangelicals said the laws "follow biblical teaching by protecting the most vulnerable within the national community,” as opposed to the view that the laws "violate biblical teaching by keeping out poor foreigners seeking a better life."

By a 4-1 margin, evangelicals were more likely to say the government has "a lot" of moral responsibility to protect struggling Americans from having to "compete with foreign workers for jobs" than to say the responsibility is to protect the ability of "settled illegal immigrants to hold a job and support their families without fear of deportation."

Only 18% of evangelical voters were persuaded by arguments that the presence of so many illegal immigrants as active members of their churches improves the case for granting work permits and legal status. It should make no difference, said 71%.

The poll found even less support for increasing legal immigration:

Only 8% of evangelicals supported doubling legal immigration and 14% favored keeping it at the current 1 million a year.

64% said immigration should be cut at least to 500,000 a year, with half of all evangelicals supporting a limit of no more than 100,000 a year.

29% said legal immigration should be reduced to zero.

Evangelicals showed particular concerns for Black and Hispanic Americans, younger less-educated Americans of all ethnicities and the disabled, all of whom have very high jobless rates and whom many employers say they find it difficult to recruit. Most evangelicals (73%) said that, instead of bringing in more immigrant workers, employers should be "required to try harder to recruit and train" Americans from those high-unemployment groups.

And most evangelicals (68%) said they are willing to pay higher prices if it is necessary for employers to raise wages to fill jobs with Americans instead of adding more foreign workers.

Asked to choose between two overall views of immigration:

15% chose that "most people should be able to migrate from country to country since all people are equal children of God."

75% chose that "nations have a moral and sovereign right to decide which and how many immigrants can enter."

The poll was sponsored by the NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation, a non-profit organization that educates on the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform's recommendations for lower immigration to improve the lives of the more vulnerable members of society. Half the respondents of the poll were Republicans, 25% were Democrats and 25% were Independents.  The margin of sampling error was 3% with a 95% level of confidence. The full wording of all questions and the results are posted on the NumbersUSA website.