America has been gaining more than 600,000 new Christians each year–all without the help of any evangelism efforts.
According to a new report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 620,000 Christian immigrants received green cards in 2012, joining the nearly 250 million Christians in the U.S. overall.
The data presented in Pew's latest, wide-ranging analysis are based primarily off of estimates, since the government doesn't track specific religious affiliation for new permanent residents. Even so, the report contains interesting findings, including the fact that the majority of U.S. immigrants–both authorized and unauthorized–are Christian.
Pew estimates that the share of new, Christian legal permanent residents (LPR) decreased seven percent over the past 20 years, down to 61 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the shares of LPR immigrants who belong to minority faiths including Islam and Hinduism increased, and 1 in 4 green card recipients now is a religious minority. This corresponds with a rising share of immigrants from regions other than Latin America, including southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
By contrast, unauthorized immigrants mainly come from Latin America and the Caribbean, where countries have established Christian (usually Catholic) majorities. As a result, an overwhelming majority (83 percent, or 9.2 million people) of unauthorized immigrants are Christian. According to Pew, that's more than the Christian percentage of the U.S. population as a whole, which clocked in at 80 percent in 2010.
Over the past 20 years, roughly six-in-ten legal Christian immigrants have come from Latin America and the Caribbean (an average of about 370,000 each year). At the same time, more Christian immigrants have been coming from sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, an estimated 11% of Christian immigrants came from sub-Saharan Africa, compared with just 3% in 1992. Meanwhile, the percentage of Christian immigrants from Europe has been declining. In 2012, about 9% of new Christian immigrants were from Europe, down from an estimated 15% in 1992.
It doesn't appear that new immigrant residents are contributing to the so-called "rise of the nones" either. Pew estimates that 140,000 new LPR immigrants in 2012 were religiously unaffiliated, and fewer than 3 million religiously unaffiliated immigrants have been admitted since 1992.
New immigration legislation currently being considered in Congress could drastically overhaul the U.S. immigration system, and evangelical groups increasingly favor the reforms.
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