Survey: More Americans Have Negative View of Immigrants

( [email protected] ) Jul 16, 2007 08:07 AM EDT

Americans, overall, have a more negative view of the impact of immigrants on society in the United States than earlier this decade, according to a new Gallup Poll survey.

While Americans continue to acknowledge the positive contributions of immigrants to the diverse American culture – such as in the areas of food, music, the arts – a growing number of people currently believe immigrants are harmful to society in other ways.

Average Americans believe that immigrants have had more of a negative than beneficial impact on the crime rate, the economy, social and moral values, and job opportunities, according to the recent Gallup poll.

The survey, conducted June 4-24 and released Friday, showed that 58 percent of Americans believe the crime situation is worst because of immigrants, while 46 percent say this people group has negatively impacted the economy in general.

In addition, 37 percent of Americans say social and moral values have declined due to immigrants.

Hispanic participants, on the other hand, disagree with non-Hispanic whites and blacks in almost every category of the survey. They hold a significantly more positive view of immigrant impact on American society.

However, they agree with other survey participants in the area of crime, expressing a net negative rating of the impact of immigrants on the country’s crime situation.

The positive view of Hispanics on American society is not surprising given that 46 percent of Hispanics in the sample were themselves not born in the United States, noted Gallup.

In addition, Gallup suggested that the negative views of immigrants may reflect, to a significant degree, the overall mood of Americans this year. Gallup pointed out that most of its survey showed a “very negative” American attitude including overall satisfaction, rating of the economy, and rating of the president and Congress.

Yet despite the overall negative view of the impact of immigrants, Americans are strongly supportive of legislative measures to address the issues. More than six of ten Americans surveyed in a July 6-8 poll said the issue of illegal immigration is “extremely” or “very” important to them, including 35 percent who said it is “extremely” important.

Moreover, a Gallup Panel survey last month showed that 29 percent of Americans think immigration should be the top government priority, coming in ahead of other popular issues such as healthcare (23 percent) and general state of the economy (10 percent). Immigration came in second only behind Iraq, which 63 percent of Americans say should be the government’s top priority.

The immigration issue has not only elicited the concern of secular Americans, but also a growing number of churches and Christians who are getting involved in the debate. Involved Christians often explain that the Bible speaks about taking care of the foreign strangers, in addition to the fact that many of the Old Testament figures were themselves immigrants.

“You cannot deny the message of migration in the biblical story, in the Old Testament and the New Testament,” said Suzii Paynter, director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) Christian Life Commission, to The Associated Press. “God calling people into unknown lands is very central to the biblical story.”

BGCT and the Baptist social service group Buckner International announced late last month their partnership to create the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC). The Center is the first nationwide effort by local church-based ministries to help immigrants become U.S. citizens.

Meanwhile, other Christian groups advocating for immigration reform policies hope that new laws can put a human face on an issue affecting 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. Some metropolitan churches across the nation have even offered their buildings as sanctuaries to protect illegal immigrants from law enforcement officers.

Despite the ongoing debate and concern over the issue, a comprehensive immigration reform bill is unlikely to be tackled by Congress until after the presidential election next year.

The White House had spearheaded an effort to push through an immigration reform bill last month but failed when the Senate could not garner the 60 votes needed to limit debate and move it towards final passage.

“Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people and Congress’ failure to act on it is a disappointment,” a grim faced Bush said, according to AP, after hearing news of the bill’s defeat. “A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn’t find common ground. It didn’t work.”

The recent Gallup Poll survey interviewed 2,388 adults nationwide, including 868 non-Hispanic whites, 802 non-Hispanic blacks, and 502 Hispanics.