A large majority of evangelicals describe legal immigration as “helpful” to the United States, according to a new Lifeway Research survey that also found that evangelicals support a balanced approach to immigration reform.
The poll, sponsored by Evangelical Immigration Table and World Relief, found that 83 percent of self-identified evangelicals describe legal immigration as “helpful,” with 40 percent saying it’s helpful and that the U.S. should maintain the current number of legal immigrants and 25 percent calling it helpful and saying the nation should increase the number of legal immigrants. Another 19 percent call it helpful but believe the U.S. should decrease legal immigration. A total of 17 percent of evangelicals describe legal immigration as “harmful.”
Meanwhile, evangelicals support an approach to immigration reform that is best described as “balanced.” For example, 90 percent of evangelicals say they support legislation that would “guarantee secure national borders,” and 78 percent back legislation that would “establish a path toward citizenship for those who are here illegally, are interested, and meet certain qualifications for citizenship.”
Asked the best way for Congress to address immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, only 25 percent of evangelicals say they should be deported “to their country of origin.” Nearly half (46 percent) say Congress should “require immigrants in the country illegally to pay a fine as restitution, then allow them to apply for permanent legal status if they pass a criminal background check and meet other requirements.” Another 17 percent say Congress should “grant amnesty to immigrants in the country illegally and provide all of them with permanent legal status.”
Nearly 8 in 10 evangelicals (78 percent) say they would support changes to immigration law that both increased border security and established a process to earn legal status and apply for citizenship.
“Evangelical Christians should be looking to the Bible – not any political party’s platform, media personalities or even a survey of fellow evangelicals – to determine how they respond to the arrival of immigrants to their communities,” said Matthew Soerens, national coordinator of the Evangelical Immigration Table. “But as evangelical leaders seek both to disciple those under their care and to advocate for public policies consistent with biblical principles, this study allows leaders to verify the extent their positions are in line with the views of evangelicals ‘in the pews’ and to know how to better serve them.”
The survey, released Tuesday, was based on interviews with 1,007 U.S. adults.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.