WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans’ belief in a duty to accept refugees has dipped, according to a survey showing that white Evangelicals are among the least favorable to refugees.
While 50 percent of Catholics said they think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees, only 25 percent of white Evangelicals did. The white Evangelical response was statistically identical to the percentage of Republicans who saw a duty toward refugees.
Of black Protestants, 63 percent saw a duty to accept refugees. However, only 43 percent of white mainline Protestants did. About 65 percent of the religiously unaffiliated see a national duty toward refugees.
“Opinions about whether the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees – which were already deeply polarized – have grown even more so,” said the Pew Research Center, which conducted the recent survey.
Decline in support for refugee admissions among Republicans and Republican-leading independents drove the number lower, the Washington Post reports. About 74 percent of Democrats believe in an American duty to refugees.
In February 2017, a time of controversy over the Trump Administration’s new limits on refugee admissions, 56 percent of Americans said the U.S. had a responsibility to accept refugees. The figure is now at 51 percent. Republican pro-refugee sentiment dropped nine percentage points, while Democratic pro-refugee sentiment rose about 3 points.
In a March 26 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and to the U.S. State Department, Bishop Joe Vasquez, speaking as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, lamented the low number of refugee admissions.
“As Christians, our concerns for refugees is integral to our life of faith,” the bishop said.
“Most often they are at-risk women and children who are too vulnerable to remain in the region and/or in situations too dangerous for them to wait in the host country until the conflict at home has ended.”
Broken down along race and ethnicity, 67 percent of blacks believe the country has a duty toward refugees, compared to 59 percent of Hispanics and 46 percent of whites, Pew said.
The Pew survey of 1,503 U.S. adults conducted April 25-May 1 claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
Refugee admissions to the U.S. have declined sharply in the first half of fiscal year 2018. Muslim refugee numbers fell to 1,800, compared to about 22,900 in all of fiscal year 2017.
This is in part due to Trump administration policy that caps admissions to 45,000 people per fiscal year, the lowest cap since 1980, when Congress created the current refugee program, Pew says. The administration also restricted admissions for several months as part of a security review.
About 10,500 total refugees, and about 6,700 Christians entered the U.S. in the first half of the fiscal year. At the same point in fiscal year 2017, there were 39,100 admissions, with 18,500 Muslims and 16,900 Christians.