By R. MARK FREY
Temperatures are rising, the snow is melting, days are getting longer, and the natural world is awakening from its winter slumber as migratory birds begin their return to these northern climes. Different religious faiths have commenced celebrating rituals of birth, liberation, light, and renewal as we enter the new spring season with hope for new beginnings. And, we see Congress and President Obama struggling to secure a viable approach to immigration and immigration reform.
The time seems ripe for reflection on those religious faiths and their relationship to immigrants and immigration. Interestingly, a survey was recently conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in association with the religion, policy, and politics project at the Brookings Institution with some intriguing results. Approximately 4,500 U.S. adults were surveyed in an effort to explore a variety of issues and values related to immigration. The report, Citizens, Values and Cultural Concerns: What Americans Want from Immigration Reform, was released about two weeks ago and examined, in particular, support for immigration policy among various religious groups and political implications for the Republican and Democratic parties.
The 68 pp. report is available at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2013/03/21 percent20immigration percent20survey percent20jones percent20dionne percent20galston/citizenship percent20values percent20and percent20cultural percent20concerns.pdf. It is authored by PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones, PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox, and PRRI Research Associate Juhem Navarro-Rivera, and Brookings Senior Fellows E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William Galston.
Consider the following highlights from the report:
• About 63 percent of Americans believe that the immigration system needs to address the issue of those living here without immigration status by providing them an opportunity to obtain citizenship if they meet certain criteria;
• The majorities of all religious groups, including Hispanic Catholics (74 percent), Hispanic Protestants (71 percent), black Protestants (70 percent), Jewish Americans (67 percent), Mormons (63 percent), white Catholics (62 percent), white mainline Protestants (61 percent), and white evangelical Protestants (56 percent) support those currently living in the United States without immigration status to become citizens if they meet certain criteria;
• Of those surveyed, 69 percent state that following the Golden Rule in relation to immigration matters—“providing immigrants the same opportunity that I would want if my family were immigrating to the U.S.”—is very or extremely important;
• The face of American society is changing and is most telling between generations. About 71 percent seniors (age 65 and older) identify themselves as white Christian (29 percent white evangelical Protestant, 23 percent white mainline Protestant, and 17 percent white Catholic) while less than 28 percent Millennials (ages 18 to 29) identify themselves as such (10 percent white evangelical Protestant, 9 percent white mainline Protestant, and 6 percent white Catholic);
• Seniors (17 percent) are much more likely than Millennials (6 percent) to identify themselves as white Catholic. In contrast, 3 percent seniors and 10 percent Millennials identify themselves as Hispanic Catholics. In fact, 56 percent of Catholics under the age of 30 are now Hispanic;
• Majorities of all religious groups, including 68 percent of Jewish Americans, 66 percent of Hispanic Catholics, 64 percent of Hispanic Protestants, 63 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans, 61 percent of black Protestants, 59 percent of white Catholics, 56 percent of white mainline Protestants, 54 percent of Mormons, and 51 percent of white evangelical Protestants, agree that immigrants today think of themselves as Americans just as much as immigrants from other eras did;
• Americans say that they trust the Democratic Party more than the Republican Party to handle the issues of immigration (39 percent to 29 percent) and immigrants without status (43 percent to 30 percent);
• Finally, 54 percent of Americans view immigrants positively and believe that they help strengthen American society.
These survey results reflect a consensus that the time for immigration reform is now. United States demographics are changing both with respect to ethnic composition and in terms of specific religious group prevalence and makeup. At the same time, we see a diverse group of religious faiths advocating for immigrants, perceiving and arguing that they are a positive force in the country and that needed reform must provide for those currently in the United States without immigration status. It’s a matter of faith and a matter of fact. What more does Congress need to know?
R. Mark Frey is a St. Paul, Minnesota attorney who has been practicing immigration law exclusively for almost 25 years with an emphasis on political asylum, family immigration, naturalization, and removal defense.