WASHINGTON—New polling data out today reveals that religious Californians overwhelmingly support a roadmap to citizenship and believe that immigration reform should focus on keeping families together and protecting the dignity of the human person. The Campaign for Citizenship, a project of PICO National Network and the PICO federations of California, is working to ensure that reform legislation includes a just and direct roadmap to citizenship by organizing communities of faith.

“The truth is in the numbers. And the numbers show that more than 90 percent of Californians think that keeping families together is an important value in immigration reform,” said the Rev. Edward Poettgen pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Santa Ana and a member of the Orange County Congregation Community Organization.  “Ninety-four percent of Californians believe that immigration reform should protect the dignity of the human person. We are all God’s children, created with inherent dignity and because of that belief we call for nothing less than full citizenship for our immigrant family members, neighbors and friends.”

The poll, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the values of keeping families together and protecting the dignity of the human person are rated very or extremely important as principles to immigration reform by almost 80 percent of Americans. In California, nearly 75 percent of people say following the Golden Rule – by “providing immigrants the same opportunity that I would want if my family were immigrating to the U.S.”- is a value that is very or extremely important.

“Aspiring Americans are part of our communities, our schools and our houses of worship. They are Americans in everything but paperwork. And now it’s clear that there is real support behind the movement for citizenship,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous founding rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles and a clergy leader in LA Voice. “Sixty percent of Californians support a roadmap to citizenship and more than 60 percent support giving a preference to immigrants who have family members who are U.S. citizens. Californians clearly support keeping families together.”

The poll, one of the largest ever conducted on immigration, found that majorities of all religious groups support a path to citizenship including Hispanic Catholics (74 percent), Hispanic Protestants (71 percent), black Protestants (70 percent), Jewish Americans (67 percent), Mormons (63 percent), white Catholics (62 percent), white mainline Protestants (61 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (56 percent).

“As faith leaders we know that sometimes politicians aren’t hearing the stories of struggle and separation that affect immigrant families, but we know they pay attention to polling numbers. These numbers show that overwhelming majorities are standing with aspiring Americans. People of all faiths, whether belonging to the Democratic, Republican or any other party, support a clear roadmap to citizenship for the immigrant families in our communities. We hope and pray that our legislators take notice,” said Fr. Jesús Nieto-Ruiz, pastor of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church Oakland.

PICO National Network has outlined the Campaign for Citizenship’s five essential elements of a reform bill:

  1. Seven Years: The path to citizenship should be direct and take no longer than seven years. The current backlog of immigration cases should be processed expeditiously.
  2. Citizenship for 11 Million: All 11 million undocumented Americans should be able to come out of the shadows to receive legal residency and begin moving down the path to becoming citizens without unnecessary obstacles.
  3. Freedom of Movement: People approved for the first phase of legal residency should be able to work, drive, attend school and travel out-of-country for family or educational purposes.
  4. Cost Savings from Ending Needless Detention and Deportation: As we bring people in from the shadows and maintain border security, we should be able to reduce the enormous sums spent detaining and deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants who pose no danger to the community.
  5. No Permanent Underclass: Policies designed to increase the opportunity for immigrants to legally enter the United States should reunite families, protect labor rights and avoid creating a class of residents without access to a path to citizenship.


Press release from PICO National Network