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Survey: majorities of most faiths favor path to citizenship, want to keep families together

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 11:05 p.m. MDT

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said pastors have been encouraged for the past several years to learn about the issue and preach it from the pulpit as a biblical imperative to care for the stranger.

"We support it because of the biblical admonition of caring for the strangers in our midst. There is also the dignity of citizenship status," he said.

In fact, white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants were the only groups where the biblical teachings on strangers registered as a moral guide as important as the Golden Rule, which the survey defined as "providing immigrants the same opportunities I would want if my family were immigrating to the U.S."

Respondents were asked to choose between three options for immigration reform: Allowing immigrants a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements; allowing them to become permanent legal residents, but not citizens; and identifying and deporting them.

Only among those affiliating with the tea party was there less than majority support for a path to citizenship. Tea party evangelicals had the lowest support at 44 percent.

Land said he is not surprised at widespread support for a plan that allows citizenship, or at lackluster backing for the middle-ground position of legal status without citizenship.

"You don't want to create a permanent underclass in the U.S. like they have in Europe," he said. "It's contrary to the American ideal to say, 'You can be here but you can't be a citizen.'"

Hispanic Catholics voiced the highest support (74 percent) for a system that would allow a pathway to citizenship with certain requirements, followed by Hispanic Protestants at 71 percent and black Protestants at 70 percent. Jewish Americans (67 percent), Mormons (63 percent), white Catholics (62 percent), white mainline Protestants (61 percent), and white evangelical Protestants (56 percent) also agreed.

Among the requirements evangelicals want are registration, background checks, fines for entering the country unlawfully, payment of current and back taxes, obeying laws during probationary period, identification cards and learning English, according to Soeren and Land, both members of the Evangelical Immigration Roundtable.

email: mbrown@desnews.com

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