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Religious Activism and Immigration Reform
Topics: Immigration

On June 15, Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert P. Jones participated in a panel at the Brookings Institution on immigration reform and religious activism. The panel, which was hosted by E. J. Dionne and Bill Galston, included Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Kevin Appleby with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori, Dr. David Leal of University of Texas and Mark Lopez, Associate Director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

Jones presented the findings from PRRI’s national survey on Religion, Values and Immigration Reform.

“Americans across religious groups support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform by a 2 to 1 margin. There is also near consensus on important values that should underlie immigration reform: the values of securing the border, but also values of keeping families together, the Golden Rule, and protecting the dignity of every human being.”

Jones also spoke about the lower public support found in the survey for the biblical value of “Welcoming the stranger”, which surprised many of the panelists.

“We included this measure because as we looked out at the landscape of what arguments people were using, this was one that we heard all the time. “Welcoming the stranger” comes right out of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament. I think the challenge with it is, absent a biblical literacy that makes it ring in a certain way in one’s mind, we have the competing frame of things that we tell our children, right? “Don’t talk to… strangers”. And I think it’s this competing frame without high biblical literacy to trump it that makes it a problematic message for the general population.”

Jones also concluded the event by talking about the support for values in the PRRI survey in the context of the recent Arizona immigration law:

In a recent New York Times article, one of the people they interviewed called the Arizona law “a necessary evil….” But our polling shows that what Americans really want from immigration reform is not a choice that’s necessary and evil, but a choice that’s necessary and good and right, that leads to upholding the best of American values.

Audio of all speakers, presentation materials, and a full transcript for the event can be found here.