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  by  Roy Beck

New polling of American Catholics, Evangelicals and Protestants who are likely to vote in this fall's mid-term elections once again shows the majority of them have immigration views dramatically at odds with their leaders.

In a nutshell, most American Christians want a lot less immigration -- both illegal and legal.

  • 68% of Catholic likely voters said annual legal immigration should be cut at least as much as would be cut by the leading U.S. House legislation (the "Goodlatte bill"). Only 20% of Catholics chose to keep annual immigration at a million or to increase it.
  • Among Evangelical voters, the split was 74% favoring cuts to 750,000 or lower vs. 17% preferring annual numbers at a million or more.
  • Among Protestants the split was 66% to 22%.

SO DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE HEAR FROM RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN THE MEDIA

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It's an old, old story. But it bears repeating with new data, lest consumers of news media think that the religious leaders they hear talking about immigration are speaking for much more than themselves.

Most of the religious leaders -- from the Pope to mega-church pastors to national religious organizations -- who speak publicly about immigration tend to indicate support for some form of immigration and foreign-worker expansion, opposition to cuts in family chain migration, and disagreement with efforts to enforce laws against illegal migration.

Opinions of those religious leaders about Americans who take a different view can be quite harsh.

For example, a recent ecumenical gathering in the Washington D.C. area -- sponsored by most of the Protestant denominations -- expressed concern about negative reactions to "historically high levels of migration" and cited "white supremacist ideologies . . . racism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia," and political opportunism.

As has been true for at least 30 years, Christian leaders' disagreement with the American majority on immigration issues is primarily a disagreement with their own members in the pews.

MOST U.S. CHRISTIANS WANT FAR LESS IMMIGRATION

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The March 7-8 survey of likely mid-term voters by Pulse Opinion Research provided respondents with the numerical level of recent annual legal immigration. The pollster then gave people six choices for what number they think would be closer to the right annual number.

Here was the question:

QUESTION: Current federal policy adds about one million new immigrants with lifetime work permits each year. Which is closest to the number of new immigrants the government should be adding each year?

Here are the answers:

Evan--Prot--Cath
52%----45----40..........Less than 250,000
17%----16----21..........500,000
05%----05----07..........750,000
-------------------------------------------------------
13%----13----11..........One million
01%----02----03..........One and a half million
03%----07----06---------More than two million
------------------------------------------------------
09%----13----12..........Not sure

Perhaps the most remarkable result was that nearly a majority of Christian voters chose an option that would be more than a 75% reduction in the annual flow of the last two decades.

Less than one of every 10 Christian likely voters agreed with their outspoken religious leaders who call for increasing annual immigration.

The survey of 1,000 likely midterm election voters nationwide was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC, which is an independent public opinion research firm using automated polling methodology and procedures licensed from Rasmussen Reports, LLC. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 3.0% percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. The results displayed on this report are from the majority of respondents who identified themselves as Evangelicals, Protestants or Catholics.

The sample size for likely voters of each of other religions and of no religion was too small to be reliable. But the results for all others together were:

Other Religious & Non-Religious
28%......less than 250,000
14%......500,000
08%......750,000
-------------------------------------------------------
17%......One million
06%......One and a half million
10%......More than two million
------------------------------------------------------
17%......Not sure

Although the support for immigration reductions was lower than among the three large traditional Christian populations, preference for cuts to 750,000 or lower was still by a 50% to 33% margin.

And the most popular choice was for cutting current annual immigration by at least 75% to less than 250,000.

U.S. CHRISTIAN VOTERS PREFER END TO FAMILY CHAIN MIGRATION

QUESTION: Congress is debating something called Chain Migration which currently allows an immigrant to sponsor the immigration of other family members, such as adult brothers and sisters -- and each of THEIR spouses can eventually sponsor their own siblings and parents, who can then start other chains. Do you favor continuing these Chain Migration categories, or do you favor legislation that would allow immigrants to bring in only their spouse and minor children?

Evan--Prot--Cath
16%----26----25.........Favor continuing Chain Migration categories
76%----60----62.........Favor allowing immigrants to bring in only their spouse and minor children
09%----14----12.........Not sure

CHRISTIANS DON'T WANT CHAIN VISAS GIVEN TO BUSINESSES

QUESTION: Congress is considering eliminating around 250,000 Chain Migration visas each year. If it does, should those visas be offered to businesses to bring in more foreign workers or should total annual immigration be reduced by around 250,000 a year?

Evan--Prot--Cath
15%----18----26.........Those visas should be offered to businesses to bring in more foreign workers
73%----56----56.........Total annual immigration should be reduced by around 250,000 a year
12%----26----18.........Not sure

ANY 'DREAMER' AMNESTY SHOULD INCLUDE E-VERIFY TO PREVENT FUTURE ILLEGAL WORKERS

QUESTION: Congress is also considering giving lifetime work permits to certain young adults who were brought illegally to the United States by their parents. Should any legalization include a requirement that all employers use the government's E-Verify system to keep future illegal immigrants from settling in the U.S. to obtain jobs?

Evan--Prot--Cath
65%----51----56..........Yes
19%----27----21..........No
16%----22----23..........Not Sure

'DREAMER-TYPE' AMNESTY WITH LEGAL CUTS & E-VERIFY SUPPORTED -- STAND ALONE AMNESTY OPPOSED

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One place where Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant likely voters are in line with public religious leaders is in willingness to legalize "certain young-adult illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children."

But the support from the people in the pews is for an amnesty much more like the "Goodlatte bill" in the U.S. House than the stand-alone amnesty supported by most public religious leaders.

QUESTION: Would you support a bill that legalized certain young-adult illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and that also reduced future annual immigration by ending chain migration and by mandating that employers use E-Verify to prevent them from hiring illegal workers?

Evan--Prot--Cath
62%----50----54..........Yes
22%----30----26..........No
16%----20----20..........Not sure

Most support for a legalization disappears if it allows the status quo to continue with chain migration, annual immigration at a million a year and no mandatory E-Verify:

QUESTION: Would you support a bill that legalized certain young-adult illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, but continued Chain Migration, kept total immigration at one million a year and allowed employers to hire without checking legal status with E-Verify?

Evan--Prot--Cath
14%----22----25..........Yes
77%----60----59..........No
08%----17----16..........Not sure

Despite overwhelming preference by public religious voices for immigration expansion, I am sure there are many religious scholars and other religious leaders around the country who see the moral equation about immigration more like the large majorities of the people in the pews. But for various reasons -- including intimidation by the clear bias of the mainstream media -- those more moderate Christian leaders rarely speak up. I would welcome getting an email from them to know that they exist.

I am unaware of any serious attempt by national religious leaders and organizations to dialogue with their members who represent the majority of Christians wanting less legal immigration and more enforcement against illegal migration. This most recent polling suggests that without a sincere dialogue, the leaders and members are likely to continue to talk past each other.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

Updated: Thu, May 10th 2018 @ 7:30pm EDT

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