Family Research Council Poll Shows Many Conservative Christians Hardlined Against Illegal Immigration

'Hyphenated Americans put other ocutnries and affiliations first, and they drive a wedge into the heart of 'One Nation'.'
Gary Bauer, President of American Values (Getty Images)

Hard to Starboard
Nativism has been a recurring obsession among religious Americans since the colonial era. As they assume battle positions in the 21st-century immigration debate, today's hard-line crusaders echo mid-19th century Know-Nothings who decried "ignorant and depraved foreigners" from Italy and Ireland. Ditto 20th-century nativists like FDR's Assistant Secretary of State, Breckinridge Long, who thought Jewish and Slavic immigrants were "entirely unfit to become citizens of this country. … They are lawless, scheming, [and] defiant."

Such bald sentiments are not often heard in the larger religious-right groups, many of whose positions are informed by Biblical injunctions to mercy toward the "stranger," the groups' connections to the business wing of the Republican Party, and a desire to cultivate Latinos as religious and political allies in the culture war. But there is a clear trend-line running right among a segment of culturally conservative Christians, one that worries moderate evangelicals and Latinos alike. What remains to be seen is whether the larger Christian Right will drift into the arms of the hard-line anti-immigration camp, and how this will affect the movement.

"I don't think white evangelicals are racist," says Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "But the Latino community is starting to have some concerns that need to be addressed. We must start changing hearts and minds through dialogue. The risk of polarization is real."