U.S. Immigrants Are Mostly Christian, But Other Faiths Are Increasing

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More than 60 percent of legal immigrants to the U.S. are Christians as are more than 80 percent of unauthorized immigrants.

A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows the religious makeup of legal immigrants to the U.S. is changing. According to the study results, Christians continue to make up a majority of new legal permanent residents in the U.S.; 61 percent of immigrants in 2012 were believers. However, this represents a decline from 1992 when 68 percent of green card recipients were Christians. The estimated share of immigrants who belong to religious minorities rose from 19 percent to 25 percent in the same 20-year period. The portion of legal immigrants who are religiously unaffiliated has remained stable at 14 percent. 

While legal immigrants to the U.S. come from every country around the world, the study showed unauthorized immigrants largely come from the Caribbean and Latin America, and the great majority of them — 83 percent — are Christian. This is higher than the percentage of Christians in the U.S. population as a whole (estimated at 80 percent in 2010).

Estimates of the religious affiliation of immigrants were made by studying data from the Department of Homeland Security and the information collected from the Pew Research Center’s New Immigrant Survey conducted in 2003.

According to the study results, the number of immigrants who are granted legal permanent residency in the U.S. has been increasing since 1945. It rose from about 250,000 annually in the 1950s to an average of about 1 million per year over the last two decades. In that period, the U.S. has admitted an estimated 12.7 million Christian immigrants.

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