- (Photo: Reuters/Keith Bedford)
A recent study showed that the majority of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. are in fact Christian, adding another layer to the multifaceted immigration debate.
Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life released their report Friday. "The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Immigrants: Majority Christian, Rising Share of Other Faiths" highlights the religious background of those coming to the U.S. and where they originated from.
The study noted that unauthorized immigrants are primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean, with an estimated 83 percent being Christian. That percentage is similar to the makeup of the percentage of Christians in the U.S. population as a whole, which is stated to be about 80 percent.
The overwhelming majority of Christian immigrants has been a wake-up-call to Christian communities around the country.
"When Christians in our church learn about God's heart for the immigrant and what the Bible has to say, their hearts are opened because we are a people of faith and our desire is to live out that faith in our world," said Dr. David Uth, senior pastor at First Baptist Orlando.
Uth also believes it is important for pastors to continue to lead on the issue in order to change those poll results.
"Regardless of what the polls show, the principle is simple – leaders lead, they don't follow," Uth said. "And the reason I got involved in this is not because I read the polls; the reason I got involved is because I read the Scripture and just saw what was happening. So my goal is to take what is, and maybe the polls reflect that accurately, and try to change what is. So hopefully, as more of us see this, more of us get involved, we'll see a change in those polls."
Dr. Richard Land, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and executive editor for The Christian Post, noted that in 2011 the Southern Baptist Convention voted 80 to 20 percent in favor of a resolution calling for immigration reform. The wanted changes that included a pathway to legal status, and the delegates to that convention were all elected by their local congregations.
Land also pointed out that Southern Baptist churches now include several hundred thousand Hispanics as a result of their evangelization efforts. A Hispanic pastor told Land that he estimates that as many as 40 percent of those Southern Baptist Hispanics could be without legal status to be in the country.
"Southern Baptists have gotten to know [immigrants] as ... brothers and sisters in Christ, it has put a human face on this," Land said.
Land also believes that favoring the rule of law should also favor reforming the immigration system.
"Southern Baptists are offended when government doesn't enforce the law," Land said as he referenced Romans chapter 13's admonition to obey governing authorities. "They're also offended when the government doesn't enforce the law for 20 years and then enforces it retroactively. There needs to be a balanced approach."