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American Evangelicals Want Balanced Approach to Immigration

Support for each of these principles has increased among self-identified evangelicals since a 2015 Lifeway Research study, except for guaranteeing a secure border, which remained statistically unchanged. Comparing those who strongly or somewhat support specific approaches to immigration reform in 2022 and those who responded yes to questions of support in 2015, the largest increase in support occurred on the issues of protecting the unity of the immediate family (up 20 percentage points, 72% to 92%) and establishing a path toward citizenship (up 16 points, 61% to 77%).

“There are many aspects to the laws and the administration of immigration processes in the U.S. that have potential for reform, but there is widespread agreement among evangelicals about the importance of specific priorities,” said McConnell. “More than three-fourths of evangelicals support comprehensive reforms that seek to improve multiple priorities in one set of legislation.”

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Nearly 4 in 5 evangelicals (78%) would support changes to immigration laws that both increase border security and establish a process to earn legal status and apply for citizenship for those currently in the U.S. unlawfully.

Four in 5 (80%) would back bipartisan immigration reform that strengthens border security, establishes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, and provides a reliable number of screened, legal farmworkers. Additionally, 2 in 3 evangelicals (65%) say they’d be more likely to vote for candidates who supported such immigration reforms.

“We’ve increasingly seen evangelical Christians eager to advocate with their elected officials for more compassionate public policies toward these distinct categories of immigrants, which is consistent with many of the policy views identified in this new study,” said Soerens.

When asked the best way for Congress to address immigrants who are in the country illegally, 46% of evangelicals back requiring them to pay a fine as restitution and then allow them to apply for permanent legal status if they pass a background check and meet other requirements. Fewer would want them deported to their country of origin (25%) or granted amnesty and provided permanent legal status (17%). Another 12% say they aren’t sure, and 1% wants Congress to do nothing to address immigrants here illegally.

“More than twice as many evangelicals prefer establishing a process for immigrants who came to the country illegally to obtain legal status than deporting these people,” said McConnell. “While differences exist in how this should be resolved, there is clear agreement that continuing to do nothing is not the best option.”

Politically, half of evangelicals describe themselves as somewhat (25%) or very conservative (24%). While 35% say they’re moderate, fewer classify themselves as somewhat liberal (9%) or progressive or very liberal (4%).