Immigration continues to be one of the most hotly debated issues in American politics, and is embedded into the most basic foundation of the nation. Below is a quick overview of the facts, figures, and trends of immigration to the United States.
Immigration by the Numbers: Today
- As per the US Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), foreign nationals numbered in at over 41.3 million, comprising about 13% of the American population.
- From 2012-13, over a half million new immigrants settled in the United States, showing 1.3% increase in the immigrant population.
- These numbers become even more substantial when considering the children of these immigrants. Altogether, immigrants and their children compose an astounding 25% of the American population with a strong foothold of 80 million people.
Immigration by the Numbers: Yesteryear
- The US Census Bureau first began to collect data on Americans’ native origins in 1850. Immigrants accounted for 10% of a general population numbering approximately 22 million people.
- Immigration rates grew to a steady 13-15% from 1860-1920.
- Due to federal restrictions on immigration in the early 1920s, paired with the devastation of the Great Depression in the 1930s and WWII shortly thereafter, immigration rates declined to an all-time low of 5% (or 9.5 million people) by 1970.
- Revised legislation has allowed the immigrant population to quadruple over the past four decades, which continues to diversify the face, culture, and essence of the United States of America.
Major Moments in US Immigration History
- Immigration to the United States is typically divided into three time periods:
- The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 enacted a cap of 3% additional immigrants annually for each country of origin (e.g. if 1,000 citizens of country X resided in the US in a given year, only 30 additional migrants from that country were permitted that year). This legislation favored northern Europeans at the expense of Southern and Eastern Europeans, and in fact did not apply to Latin Americans.
- The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, allowed immigration to prosper yet again. It eradicated the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and set up new criteria and revised quotas in which skilled foreign nationals, as well as those with familial ties to American citizens, were given preferred status to immigrate.
Top Countries of Origin for Immigration to the US
The following list comprises the top ten countries with the largest migration to the United States from 1820-2000:
- Germany: 7 million
- Mexico: 6 million
- Great Britain: 5 million
- Ireland: 5 million
- Italy: 5 million
- Canada: 5 million
- Austria & Hungary: 4 million
- Russia: 4 million
- The Philippines: 2 million
- China: 1 million