Roy Beck's picture


  by  Roy Beck

Perhaps the most striking results of a massive new Zogby poll show that while their religious leaders mouth the arguments of the Chamber of Commerce for more cheap foreign labor, the vast majority of church and synagogue members show a strong preference for low-wage and jobless Americans.

Most of the largest Christian and Jewish organizations are set next week to begin lobbying Congress vigorously to increase the flow of foreign workers -- especially unskilled ones -- into the U.S.

But Zogby found almost no support among the people in the pews for importing more workers.

  • Only 12% of Catholics agree with their bishops that the U.S. needs more foreign workers.
  • Only 10% of mainline Protestants agree with the largest denominations that there aren't enough Americans to fill U.S. jobs.
  • Only 7% of born-again Protestants agree with the National Association of Evangelicals that the U.S. doesn't import enough foreign workers.
  • Only 16% of Jews agree with Jewish group lobbyists that the U.S. needs to give out more foreign work permits.

What Zogby did in its poll of more than 40,000 Americans is ask which opinion best reflected their view about jobs that require relatively little education.

The vast majority of Christians and Jews chose the second opinion: "There are plenty of Americans already here to do these jobs; if employers can't find workers they should pay more and treat workers better."

The tiny percentages listed in the bullet points above chose the first opinion: "We need to allow more immigrants into the country to fill these jobs because there aren't enough Americans willing or able to do them."

This opinion (roundly rejected by Christians and Jews but most strongly argued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) is the one chosen by most of the national religious leaders. This is strange since most of these leaders usually are known for leaning liberal and in favor of workers.

How refreshing, though, to find out that the tens of millions of Americans who attend the services of those religions and provide the offerings to pay the salaries of those pro-labor-importation religious leaders have not lost their moral bearings. The members do not seem to be influenced in any way by the teachings of their national religious leaders that we have a labor shortage in this country.

Only somebody blinded by ideology could during the current Jobs Depression claim that we have a labor shortage.

Yet, that is a fundamental belief behind all of the religious leaders' lobbying for "comprehensive immigration reform."

Most Christians and Jews see a 10% U-3 unemployment rate and feel deep compassion for the 15 million Americans who are actively looking for a job but can't find even a part-time job.

I have no doubt that the national religious leaders are also concerned about these Americans -- but not so concerned to be willing to give up their near-idolatrous ideological commitment to high immigration.

You will be amazed to read national religious leader arguments for labor importation summarized in the report on the Zogby poll by the Center for Immigration Studies.


While fewer than 16% of Christians and Jews think it makes any practical or moral sense to be importing foreign workers during a time of high unemployment, most national religious leaders prefer to claim that foreign workers have no impact on unemployment.

Even though most of the national religious leaders usually are quick to criticize businesses for the excesses of capitalism, they seem perfectly comfortable in parroting the most greedy of businesses when it comes to defending high immigration. It doesn't seem to matter that the most unscrupulous businesses use immigration to hold down the wages of all workers and to avoid hiring under-represented U.S. born groups such as the disabled, Black, indigenous Indian and Hispanic).

Immigrants are filling the jobs that go unwanted and unfilled by U.S. citizens. . . . employers who are trying to 'do it the right way' are not able to bring people into the country on employment visas because the system is so backlogged."

-- Episcopal Church

U.S. policy does not reflect labor demands in determining caps on work visas . . . demand for worker visas far exceeds availability.

-- Presbyterian Church USA

The Union for Reform Judaism calls specifically for increases in unskilled laborers, as if our less-educated and less-skilled Americans don't already have an unemployment rate two and three times higher than the rest of the nation.

The United Church of Christ urged its members to demand of candidates for Congress that they deal with U.S. business dependency on a foreign labor supply:

How do you propose to enable these critical businesses to obtain a sufficient and dependable work force?

-- United Church of Christ question of candidates regarding increasing immigration

. . . immigrants provide a much-needed labor force in the United States . . . (The government should) increase the number of visas for short-term workers to come into the United States to work.

-- United Methodist Church

The U.S. economy depends upon the labor provided by migrants . . . (The law should be changed so more) laborers from other countries can enter the country legally to fill positions in the labor force, including on a temporary basis (and temporary workers should be provided a) path to permanent residency.

-- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

In the eyes of the highest elites of religious leaders in the country, unemployed Americans are too lazy, too dumb or too ill-equipped to take entry-level service, construction, manufacturing and transportation jobs. In the leaders' eyes, illegal foreign workers are much superior or it wouldn't be right to ask unemployed Americans to do the lower-skilled jobs, or to raise the wages of those jobs to a level that would attract Americans.

(Illegal foreign workers are) indispensable (and do jobs that) United States citizens often will not do. . . . Legal pathways for entry to work in the United States ought to correspond to the annual need for foeign workers."

-- Lutheran Church (ELCA)

. . . Employers report that they advertise for weeks and offer jobs to U.S. citizens prior to turning to undocumented workers. . . . Workers who are U.S. citizens often quit after only a few days of work.

-- Episcopal Church

Due to the limited number of visas, millions have entered the United States without proper documentation or have overstayed temporary visas. . . . (Many industries) rely on immigrant workers. . . . Current quotas do not grant enough visas to meet these needs, nor does federal immigration law provide sufficient opportunities to others who also come seeking gainful employment.

-- National Association of Evangelicals (led by the Assemblies of God, Christian Reformed Church and Church of the Nazarene)


The attitudes about illegal immigration of all the national religious leaders who are lobbying for "comprehensive immigration reform" is reflected in this statement:

. . . because the immigration system does not adequately reflect our current or future labor needs, thousands of laborers are compelled to enter the country illegally.

-- American Jewish Committee

So, Zogby asked more than 40,000 Americans why we have an estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

He gave people two choices:

(a) Past efforts to enforce immigration laws have been grossly inadequate and the government has never made a real effort to enforce the law

(b) We have made a real effort to enforce our immigration laws, but we have failed because we are not allowing in enough immigrants legally.

The (b) position is overwhelmingly endorsed by the national religious leadership, but hardly any of their members agreed.

  • 11% of Catholics said illegal immigration is caused by not letting in enough legal foreign workers (78% said the problem is inadequate enforcement)
  • 18% of mainline Protestants said not enough legal foreign workers (78% said inadequate enforcement)
  • 9% of born-again Protestants said not enough legal foreign workers (85% said inadequate enforcement)
  • 21% of Jews said not enough legal foreign workers (60% said inadequate enforcement)

Once again, the nation's low-paid workers and unemployed can be joyful that the nation's Christians and Jews in the pews -- and not their national leaders -- are the overwhelming power in the voting booth.

Candidates for Congress in 2010 would do well to screen out anything they hear about immigration from major religious leaders. Their siding with the greediest part of the corporate lobbies not only raises questions about their moral authority but clearly puts them at odds with all but a tiny percentage of their own members.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

America's Jobless
religious leaders

Updated: Wed, Dec 30th 2009 @ 5:04pm EST

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