President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration may have reignited public debate, but Americans have long harbored anti-immigrant sentiments.
One-third of Americans said in a 2016 Pew Research Center survey that immigrants are a “burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care,” and 38% say immigration should be decreased.
On the flip side, 59% of Americans say immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents” and either think immigration should stay at its present level or increase.
Today, immigrants make up 13.5% of the US population — on par with the share in 1860, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
The overall number of immigrants coming to the US peaked from 2000-05 at 5 million, and has been declining since then.
Here are the major regions where immigrants entering the US have come from since 1820:
US immigrants were largely of European descent in the 1800s, and started coming from the Americas (largely Mexico) in the 1960s.
The sharp decrease in the 1920s is due to Congress passing the Exclusion Act, which set limits on the number of immigrants who could enter the US, based on a quota system of the percentage of nationalities already in the country. Barely anyone from Asia could enter at all.
Congress revised the law in 1952, and immigration started to tick up again. Pew Research Center made this neat GIF showing the major country where immigrants have come from by state from 1850-2013:
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