Although faith groups have generally supported widespread immigration reform and the apparent plight of incoming immigrants, recent reports published by the Public Religion Research Institute speak of a growing anxiety regarding the impact of immigrants on American culture.
Following the increasingly troublesome migrant crisis in Europe, many U.S. religious leaders are calling for their members and all Americans to open their communities to the fleeing refugees.
The study found that 43% of white, mainline Protestants, 41% of white Catholics, 38% of Mormons, and 53% of white evangelical Protestants say that the growing numbers of immigrants “threaten traditional American customs and values.” This compares to 34% of all Americans interviewed in general expressing the same fear.
The report is based on more than 40,000 interviews with adults across the U.S. between April 2015 and January 2016. The report also allows readers to examine results on a state-by-state basis.
However, PRRI’s report also shows that majorities of all faith groups and more than three-quarters of U.S. adults (77%) support immigration policies that allow a track to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.
Daniel Cox, PRRI’s director of research, has stated that support for immigration reform has remained remarkably constant in recent years, also noticing that support doesn’t appear to be affected by global terrorist attacks or controversial calls for immigration limitations from presidential candidates in the same way that these events affect people’s views on the immigrants themselves.
Patricia Zapor, communications director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., speaks to the commonality of this sentiment, stating that “if someone has a different language, customs, skin color or religion, that makes people nervous.”
Zapor’s organization dedicates its time helping local affiliates support immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens or legal residents by providing training and legal support.
However, there are also other religious leaders reacting to the growing fear of terrorist attacks by calling for increased restrictions. “All immigration needs to be stopped until we have a proper way of vetting people that want to come into our country,” said the Rev. Franklin Graham while at a prayer rally on Tuesday.