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Immigration Reform: Does the ancient tradition of welcoming the stranger matter to Americans?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Reforming Immigration Policy
Abraham Welcomes Strangers Who Really Are Angels: This 14th-century illustration was part of an illuminated book of scriptures. Image in public domain, released via Wikimedia Commons.

Abraham Welcomes Strangers Who Really Are Angels: This 14th-century illustration was part of an illuminated book of scriptures. Image in public domain, released via Wikimedia Commons.

Are immigrants good or bad for America? Four of ten Americans say that immigrants threaten traditional American values, according to a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). But a majority (54%) of Americans says that newcomers from other countries strengthen our nation. Do you think immigrants strengthen or threaten the American way of life? Whatever your opinion—most Americans agree that our current system of immigration needs reform, as we discussed yesterday.

Today, I’m asking: What values should guide immigration reform? This is a big question because many different principles and priorities could apply, ranging from national security to humanitarian concerns to economic impact.

PRRI asked about eight different values that could guide immigration reform.

EIGHT VALUES: WHICH GUIDE YOU?

  • National security
  • Keeping families together
  • Human dignity
  • Enforcing the rule of law
  • Fairness to taxpayers
  • Golden Rule
  • America’s immigrant heritage
  • Biblical example of welcoming the stranger

QUESTION: Of these eight, which are the most important to you? If you had to sort these values, from most important to least, what would your list be?

If you’re like most Americans, two values would top your list: national security and the importance of keeping families intact. Eight-four percent of Americans agree that each of these values should guide immigration reform. A close third is protecting the dignity of every person (82%), following by enforcing the rule of law (77%) and ensuring fairness to those who pay taxes (77%).

How about the Golden Rule? In the survey, this was defined as “providing immigrants with the same opportunity I would want if my family was immigrating to the U.S.” Almost seven of ten (69%) said this was an important principle. America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants was also important, but fewer cited this value (52%).

About half of Americans cited the Bible’s example of welcoming the stranger as an important or very important principle, putting this principle last on the list. Yet it is instructive that 50 percent of Americans DO cite this value as an important one for guiding immigration reform. There’s also a book Welcoming the Stranger by World Relief staffers that puts forth the Christian case for compassion in immigration reform.

How do you answer today’s values question?

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Series Navigation<< Immigration Reform: Time for a new strategy?Immigration Reform: Who dreams of coming to America? >>
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