Poll: 8 of 10 evangelicals reject clergy's push for amnesty; 29% want border closed

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Immigration,Senate,John Boehner,Border Security,Religion,Christianity,Amnesty

Christian ministers pushing for immigration reform, even suggesting that the Bible requires illegals to receive work permits, are out of touch with their flock of hundreds of millions, according to an extraordinary new poll that revealed the sharp division among evangelicals worshipers and their leaders.

On the eve of a major Christian convention Monday, the new NumbersUSA poll provided in advance to Secrets found that just 12 percent of 1,000 likely evangelical voters believe that the Old Testament verses on the “stranger among us” mean the government should give work permits and legal status to illegal immigrants.

In addition, 29 percent said the border should be shut to future immigration and that the government and employers should offer jobs, and even higher than minimum wage pay, first to poor Americans, especially blacks, Hispanics and younger workers.

“Evangelicals showed particular concerns for black and Hispanic Americans, younger less-educated Americans of all ethnicities and the disabled, all of whom have very high jobless rates and whom many employers say they find it difficult to recruit,” said the poll release provided to Secrets to put pastors on notice that they have strayed.

Most evangelicals, 73 percent, said that, instead of bringing in more immigrant workers, employers should be ‘required to try harder to recruit and train, Americans from those high-unemployment groups. And most evangelicals, 68 percent, said they are willing to pay higher prices if it is necessary for employers to raise wages to fill jobs with Americans instead of adding more foreign workers.”

The poll to be released at the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Nashville Monday, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, revealed a schism in the conservative evangelical community. While they believe they should act humanely toward illegal immigrants, they don't believe the Bible requires government action.

Several evangelical leaders have applaud the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform, and also embraced a plan offered by House leaders to address individual issues. Many of the pastors have used the Bible to make their case. But the new poll suggests that those who fill their church pews don't agree.

Key findings:

-- Only 12 percent agree that the Old Testament verses in which "God commands the ancient Israelites to love the stranger as themselves" mean that "the U.S. government should offer work permits and legal status to illegal immigrants." Instead, 78 percent said it "means the U.S. government should offer humane treatment while fairly applying the law.”

-- By a 4-1 margin, evangelicals were more likely to say the government has "a lot" of moral responsibility to protect struggling Americans from having to "compete with foreign workers for jobs" than to say the responsibility is to protect the ability of "settled illegal immigrants to hold a job and support their families without fear of deportation."

-- Only 18 percent of evangelical voters were persuaded by arguments that the presence of so many illegal immigrants as active members of their churches improves the case for granting work permits and legal status. It should make no difference, said 71 percent.

-- Only 8 percent of evangelicals supported doubling legal immigration and 14 percent favored keeping it at the current 1 million a year; 64 percent said immigration should be cut at least to 500,000 a year, with half of all evangelicals supporting a limit of no more than 100,000 a year; and 29 percent said legal immigration should be reduced to zero.

-- 15 percent said that "most people should be able to migrate from country to country since all people are equal children of God."

-- 75 percent chose that "nations have a moral and sovereign right to decide which and how many immigrants can enter."

The poll was sponsored by the NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation, a non-profit organization that educates on the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform's recommendations for lower immigration to improve the lives of the more vulnerable members of society. Half the respondents of the poll were Republicans, 25 percent were Democrats and 25 percent were Independents. The margin of sampling error was 3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.