Only some 20 percent of evangelical Christians, who define themselves in part as believing the Bible to be the ultimate authority, cite it as the primary influencer of their thinking about immigration.
The report came last week from Matthew Soerens, U.S. director of church mobilization and advocacy for World Relief, an evangelical organization with a mission to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable, including refugees, immigrants, and displaced people around the world.
Soerens, who also serves as national coordinator for the Evangelical Immigration Table, a broad group of evangelical organizations, was at Houghton University for its week-long Kindschi Faith and Justice Symposium focused on War and Conflict: Creating Sanctuaries in Times of Violence.
Addressing student and general public forums, the speaker said there needs to be greater understanding in the United States of the issues involving immigration and refugees which are based on biblical principles rather than opinions drawn from news media and politics.
He said that although secure national borders, fairness to taxpayers and respect for the rule of law are necessary, biblical principles require a respect for the God-given dignity of every person, protection of the unity of the immediate family, and establishment of a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.
Soerens went through a list of some common misconceptions and other data which he said relate to immigration and refugees, including:
- Immigrants cost American taxpayers, saying that although there is an initial price to help others, after 20 years in the United States the average immigrant has paid in some $21,000 more in taxes than they have received from government sources. This is similar to the cost of a new child before they reach maturity.
- Of the Fortune 500 companies, some 44 percent have been started by first or second generation immigrants.
- Immigrants are critical to the survival of many businesses and for availability of many products which Americans use every day, including workers for farms, stores, manufacturing and services. Not only aren’t there enough workers in many fields, he said, younger individuals are needed to pay taxes to support services for aging Americans.
- Much of the business revenues in the United States come from purchases by immigrants.
- Data shows that immigrants, whether lawfully present in the United States or not, commit crimes at lower rates than native-born U.S. citizens.
- Refugees are deemed to undergo the most thorough vetting of any category of visitor or immigrant who enters the United States.
Soerens said that Christians also need to understand the often repeated biblical commandments to love one’s neighbor and to care for the needs of the fatherless, widows and foreigners, noting that many biblical figures were refugees, including Jesus, as a baby, being forced to flee to Egypt as a child refugee.
He also noted that most refugees who come to the United States are Christians, many fleeing religious persecution, which constitute a higher faith percentage than the U.S. population as a whole.
Soerens urged churches and the Christian community to become familiar with the facts associated with immigration, along with biblical mandates. He said that although the percentage of evangelical Christians who have developed their positions on immigration based on the Bible is very low, the number has gone up from the 12 percent found in the first survey in 2015.