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Episcopal Church ‘out of tune with members on immigration’ : CEN 1.08.10 p 7. January 15, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Immigration, The Episcopal Church.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The official stance of the Episcopal Church on immigration is not representative of the belief of the people in its pews, a survey conducted on behalf of the non-partisan Washington think tank, the Center for Immigrations Studies (CIS) reports.

Episcopal Church ‘out of tune with members on immigration’

The survey of over 42,000 Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical or born-again Protestants, and Jewish voters found a sharp disconnect between the official stance of their religious communities and the beliefs of individual members.

“Because religious communities often do not represent the public policy views of their members, if there is a full-blown immigration debate next year, it will be all more contentious,” Steven Camarota of the CIS said.

While religious leaders have pressed the government to relax the country’s immigration laws, permitting more immigration and providing opportunities for existing illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, an overwhelming majority of American religious voters believe the current level of immigration is too high and favour stricter enforcement of current laws.

One out of eight US residents, or 38 million people, are immigrants, while over the past decade 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants have settled in the US each year.

A supporter of the Interfaith Statement in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the Episcopal Church has backed “comprehensive immigration reform,” which calls for a significant increase in the number of legal immigrants to the United States.

At its July 2009 General Convention, the Episcopal Church called for the removal of sanctions against illegal immigrants. Resolution B006 called for the “millions of undocumented immigrants who have established roots in the United States” to have “a pathway to legalization.”

The resolution argued that immigrants fill jobs that American workers will not do, and are often better workers than native-born Americans as “workers who are US citizens often quit after only a few days of work.”

The Episcopal Church’s stance is shared by the United Methodists, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, and is closely aligned to the views of the US Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops whose website states there should be a “broad-based legalization” for those “in this country without proper immigration documentation.”

In a poll conducted on behalf of the CIS by the Zogby International in November, voters surveyed were asked to identify their religious beliefs and to respond to eight questions on immigration policies in the United States.

In contrast to many religious leaders, most members think immigration is too high. Among Roman Catholics: 69 per cent said immigration is too high, 4 per cent said too low; for Mainline Protestants including Episcopalians: 72 per cent said it is too high, 2 per cent said too low; while 78 per cent of evangelical or born-again Protestants said it is too high, 3 per cent said too low.

Religious voters also reject the proposition that more unskilled workers are needed to do the work that Americans will not do. Over 69 per cent of Roman Catholics, 73 per cent of Mainline Protestants, and 7 per cent of evangelicals said there was a need to increase immigration to fill unskilled jobs.

Pluralities of religious voters believe that stricter enforcement of current laws is the proper way forward. Asked to choose between stricter enforcement to encourage illegal immigrants to return home versus allowing them to find pathways towards legalization in the US, overwhelming majorities favored sending illegal aliens home. Roman Catholics 64 to 23 per cent; mainline Protestants 64 to 24 per cent; and evangelicals 76 to 12 per cent.

Camarota said that while the findings were “stark” there were “not so surprising.” “Voters have always been skeptical of high levels of immigration and opposition to legalization is long-standing, as the debates over “comprehensive immigration reform” in 2006 and 2007 made clear,” he said.

Church leaders often “identify strongly with the plight of illegal immigrants and people in other countries who wish to come here” and “make it plain that they believe that legalization is the only moral option,” yet they “do not themselves face foreign job competition,” Camarota said.

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