Americas Record-Breaking Immigration

Source: U.S. American Community Survey, 2021 and Census Bureau, 1960.
  • Opinion by Joseph Chamie (portland, usa)
  • Inter Press Service

Based on the Census Bureau’s 2023 Current Population Survey, the estimated number of foreign-born residents in the United States as of September 2023 is at a historic high of nearly 50 million.

The U.S., with 4 percent of the global population of 8 billion, is also the home to the largest number of immigrants in the world. Approximately 17 percent of the world’s total number of immigrants reside in America, followed by Germany at 5 percent, or about 15 million immigrants.

The current number of the foreign-born residing in America is substantially higher than the 44 million estimated at the time of its 2020 population census. The number of foreign-born residents in America today is five times higher than in 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed. In 1960, the top five immigrant groups were mainly from Italy, followed by Germany and Canada. Then came Great Britain, El Salvador, India, China, the Philippines, and then Great Britain. In 1960, the top five immigrant groups in America were Mexico, followed by India, China and the Philippines. Then, at a much lower level, came China and El Salvador. Source: U.S. American Community Survey 2021 and Census Bureau 1960. In contrast, immigrants in 1970 comprised a record low of 4.7 percent of America’s resident population (Figure 2).

Source: Migration Policy Institute.

The number of foreign-born workers in America also reached a record high of 29.8 million in 2022, or 18.1 percent of the U.S. civilian labor force, up from 17.4 percent in 2021. The Biden administration granted nearly half a millon Venezuelan migrants the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. for the next 18-months under Temporary Protection Status (TPS).

During the past two and a half years, Border Patrol reported unprecedented levels of migrant apprehensions, including 2.76 million in FY 2022 breaking the previous annual record by more than 1 million. This high level of migrant arrests will be matched by FY 2023. The number of migrants who crossed the southern border of the United States illegally in September was a record. It is higher than the previous monthly record of 252 thousands in December 2022. In September, border agents processed over 200 thousand migrants that crossed the U.S. border illegally. This was the highest number since 2023. In August, the U.S. Border Patrol detained 91 thousand migrants as part of family groups who had crossed the border. This was a significant increase over the previous record of 84 thousands set in May of 2019. Many people from Central and South America are heading north to the U.S., and then many of them ride on top of freight trains in Mexico. The number of migrants crossing the Darien Gap in Panama, which is a major crossroads of migration for thousands of migrants trying to reach the United States, reached a record-breaking 80,000 in August. The number of African migrants that Mexican authorities have registered so far in this year has already tripled the amount of those who were registered during the entire of 2022. This figure is much higher than 76,000 per year during Obama’s second tenure and 42,000 per year under Trump, before the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020. The recent dramatic spikes of unauthorized migration has further stretched federal services and overloaded local resources. In some areas of Arizona, California and Texas, the U.S. Border Patrol recently released unmanageable large numbers of migrants into communities to prevent overcrowding in federal facilities.

Far from America’s southern border, the recent arrival of more than 100,000 migrants in New York City has overwhelmed shelters, services and local resources and fueled anti-immigration sentiment.

Also in other U.S. cities, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia and Portland (Maine), the arrivals of the large numbers of asylum seekers have swamped local government facilities and budgets as well as stressed volunteer groups.

It is also worth noting that the proportions foreign-born vary considerably across America’s states. California is the state with the highest percentage of foreign-born residents, more than one quarter. New Jersey, New York and Florida are next with a little over a fifth. Source: World Population Review.

The increase in illegal border crossings is creating political challenges throughout the country. The increase in unauthorized border crossings is a political challenge for the Biden Administration, whose policies were designed to slow down the unauthorized migration flows. A slight majority of 52 percent also believe it’s important that people apply for asylum prior to traveling to the southern border. This view differs greatly by party affiliation. Over the next four decades, America will receive slightly more than 1 million legal immigrants each year. If those levels continue as expected, the projected number of foreign-born residing in America in 2060 is about 69 million, or about 17 percent of the population.

However, that projected number of foreign-born does not take into account visa overstayers and unauthorized immigrants entering the U.S. southern border. If the projection took into account unauthorized migrants, the foreign-born population in 2060 is likely to be closer to 80 million, or about a fifth of America’s projected population.

In sum, America’s immigration has reached record-breaking levels and over the coming decades, those levels are expected to be even higher. As has been the case throughout its history, America’s immigration levels continue to have profound demographic, economic, social and political consequences domestically as well as internationally.

Joseph Chamie

is a consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book,

“Population Levels, Trends, and Differentials”


(c) Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights Reserved

Original source: Inter Press Service

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