February Prayer Partner: Good News on Immigration

 In Prayer Partner

Dear friends,

This month of February started with news we’ve not heard in some time: a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators had forged a consensus on an immigration reform bill, incorporated into a supplemental spending bill.

I stayed up late on that first Sunday evening of the month, reading through the bill text, consulting with colleagues to try to understand precisely what different provisions would mean in practice and how well it fit within two “riverbank” principles that the Evangelical Immigration Table has long posited: that any policy should both improve border security and protect due process for those fleeing persecution.

But almost as quickly as the bill text was released, it was being criticized by both those on the political right and the political left, for wildly different reasons. In some cases, I wondered if they were reading the same bill – or if they’d read the bill at all: press statements in opposition came out, in some cases, within minutes of the release of the 380-page bill. Within just a few days, the bill failed a preliminary vote in the U.S. Senate, and it’s now been pronounced dead by most political analysts.

The bill was certainly not perfect, in my assessment, with some provisions that I found concerning and many other immigration policy priorities that were excluded from the proposal. But, as a letter from several Evangelical Immigration Table leaders to Members of Congress noted, it was a good-faith, genuinely bipartisan effort to solve – or at least improve – some very real problems that can only be adequately addressed by congressional action. That it was shot down so quickly, rather than being seen as a starting point to reach a consensus that could actually become law, was disheartening.

But my subject line promised you some good news on immigration…

Here it is: while I can’t honestly say I have a lot of hope that Congress will put aside partisan differences and forge consensus to pass long-overdue immigration reforms in the short-term, that’s exactly what the vast majority of evangelical Christians now want them to do, according to an extensive new study on evangelicals’ views on immigration in 2024 conducted by Lifeway Research and commissioned by the Evangelical Immigration Table. And that clamoring for immigration policy changes correlates with a dramatic increase in the share of evangelical Christians who say they think about immigration first and foremost from the perspective of the Bible, which for the first time was mentioned ahead of “the media” as the factor that evangelicals cited most often as the primary influence on their views on immigration.

Furthermore, the study found that the large majority of evangelical Christians support policies that line up closely with those that the Evangelical Immigration Table has been advocating for years. Here are some of the most compelling findings:

  • 77% say it is important for Congress to pass significant immigration reforms this year (2024), up from 68% who said the same in 2015
  • 75% support a creating a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country unlawfully, up from 61% in 2015
  • 93% believe U.S. immigration policies should ensure borders
  • 91% believe U.S. immigration policies should reflect the God-given dignity of each person
  • 71% believe that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to receive refugees
  • 75% support the substance of a bipartisan bill known as the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow Afghan allies evacuated to the U.S. in 2021 to apply for permanent legal status after undergoing additional vetting
  • 80% say they would support a bipartisan package of reforms combining improvements to border security, a path to citizenship for Dreamers brought to the country as children and reforms to our visa system to ensure an adequate supply for agricultural workers
    • This includes 77% of evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 and 88% of those who voted for Joe Biden
  • 78% would support legislation that pairs improvements to border security and the establishment of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who would pay a fine as restitution for their violation of an immigration law
    • 65% of evangelicals say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported this position, while just 12% say they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate
  • 32% say their church has a ministry that serves refugees or other immigrants, and 34% of evangelical Christians have personally been involved in serving refugees or other immigrants
  • “The Bible” is now the most mentioned factor that evangelicals say influences their views on immigration, with the share of evangelicals citing the Bible as their top influence on this issue having increased from 12% in 2015 to 26% in 2024, while the share of self-identified evangelicals who say they are familiar with what the Bible says about immigrants has risen from 53% in 2015 to 67% in 2024
  • While just 31% have heard immigration discussed at their church in a way that encouraged them to reach out to immigrants in their community, 82% say they would like to hear a biblical sermon on the theme of immigration

I’m thankful that our message – that the Bible can and should shape how American Christians think about both their immigrant neighbors and about immigration policy – is breaking through, little by little. I’m praying, and would ask you to pray with me, that we continue to see pastors and church leaders boldly provide the discipleship on these complex topics for which, the polling suggests, their people are hungry. And I’m praying that someday, sooner than I might think from my limited human perspective, we will see Congress pass immigration policy changes guided by these values as well.

In Christ,
Matthew Soerens
National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table

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