Understanding evangelicals and immigration reform

First, even in the religious group most skeptical of reform — white evangelicals — more than 60 percent believe that undocumented workers should be allowed to stay in the country “with conditions.” Green cites this as evidence the country has learned something from the ongoing immigration debate, in which mass deportation is widely dismissed as impractical. The content of these “conditions,” however, is up for debate. The requirement to learn English is popular with all religious groups. Evangelicals generally endorse a “secure-the-border-first” approach, while Catholic and mainline Christians are divided about the phasing of reform. Strong evangelical support for a 10-year waiting period before citizenship is decidedly not shared by Hispanic Christians.

In general, evangelicals seem open to a legal status for undocumented workers, when accompanied by strong affirmations of order, assimilation and legality. Probably not that different from many other Americans.

Second, Green points out an interesting distinction between cultural issues among white evangelicals. Those who attend worship services more frequently are more likely to oppose same-sex marriage — tending toward the traditionally conservative position. But immigration provides a contrast. Those who attend worship services more frequently are less likely to see newcomers as a threat to American values. They tend toward the less typically conservative view.