President Barack Obama’s allies have been blasting the GOP’s blockade of immigration-reform legislation, making the case that Republicans will alienate a core constituency–conservative Christians–unless they get on board.
Republicans have brushed off that warning, calling it a distraction from the president’s failure to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. In fact, recent polls show there’s little support among white evangelicals for a Democrat-backed plan that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The tussle over evangelical Christians comes as Obama prepares to give a speech Thursday in which he’ll make his strongest push yet for immigration reform. The White House has given little attention to the matter, even after Obama vowed on the campaign trail to make it a “top priority” in his first year in office.
Support for reform is growing among evangelicals like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land and other conservatives including News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, said Ali Noorani, who heads immigrant advocacy group National Immigration Forum.
So if Republicans continue to thwart reform efforts, Noorani and others say, they risk losing support among what perhaps is their largest constituency.
But a recent nationwide Quinnipiac University poll out showed that just 12 percent of 454 white born-again and evangelical Christians said they backed reform policies that integrate illegal immigrants into American society. Eighty-three percent said they wanted reform to focus on stricter enforcement of illegal immigration laws.
Meanwhile, 68 percent said they support Arizona’s tough new immigration law, while 15 percent oppose it. The law, known as SB1070, requires police officers to verify the immigration status of individuals if there is suspicion they are in the country illegally.
Assistant Polling Director Peter Brown said it’s important to draw a distinction between white and minority evangelical voters.
“It is not surprising that Hispanic evangelicals would have a diametrically opposed opinion to white evangelicals,” Brown said. “The political views and values of white evangelicals are very different from those of African American evangelical Christians and Hispanic evangelical Christians.”