As U.S. lawmakers continue to debate the best approach to illegal immigration, most Protestant pastors say the solution should be multifaceted, according to a study by LifeWay Research.
Researchers surveyed 1,000 Protestant pastors Jan. 14-30 on their views on illegal immigration and how the church should view those in the country illegally. A large majority—80%— say the government has the responsibility to stop illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, 70% of pastors say they are in favor of an immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those who are currently in the country illegally, and 76% say Christians have a responsibility to assist immigrants even if they are in the country illegally.
“Lawmakers have left many of the bigger immigration questions unresolved often voicing ‘either-or’ positions,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Pastors don’t seem as conflicted desiring improvement in both border security and a path to citizenship for those here illegally.”
While 80% of pastors today say the government has the responsibility to stop illegal immigration, that’s down from 87% in a 2014 LifeWay Research survey.
“Among these questions, stopping illegal immigration registers the strongest sentiment from pastors,” McConnell said. “But support for this is now more in line with caring for immigrants already in the country and establishing a path to citizenship.”
More pastors today favor immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for immigrants currently in the country illegally. Since 2014, the percentage of pastors who favor a path to citizenship has grown 12 percentage points from 58% to 70% today. The percentage who disagreed was cut in half—34% to 17%.
“For immigrants in the country illegally, there are no real options for redemption,” McConnell noted. “That doesn’t sit well with pastors—the majority of whom were ready for lawmakers to offer a means of making restitution and gaining legal status years ago.”
Support for immigrants
Compared to 2014, a similar number of pastors say Christians have a responsibility to assist immigrants even if they are here illegally—76% today and 79% then.
• Evangelical pastors are more likely to disagree than mainline pastors (16% to 10%).
• Pastors 65 and older are least likely to agree (67%).
• Those in the Northeast (85%) are more likely to agree than those in the South (74%) or Midwest (74%).
• Holiness (88%) and Presbyterian or Reformed (87%) are more likely to agree than Lutherans (74%), Church of Christ pastors (73%), Baptists (70%), or Pentecostals (66%).
Nearly 3-in-10 pastors say their church is currently helping immigrants (29%), while 70% say they are not.
“Pastors place just as much responsibility on their congregations as they do legislators,” McConnell said. “More than twice as many pastors say Christians should help immigrants than say their church is personally involved assisting local immigrant neighbors today.”
– From LifeWay Research, as reported in Baptist Press