Figure 2.1

Average annual number of legal immigrants into the United States, 1820-1995.

and many other areas of the world, the United States enjoyed a high degree of political freedom and economic prosperity. Its expanding manufacturing and construction sectors offered ample job opportunities for a new wave of immigrants. The 1965 liberalizing changes in immigration legislation prompted even further increases, as the United States began to receive new immigrants from Asia and Latin America. At the same time, illegal immigrants began appearing in significant numbers. Since 1965, both the de jure changes in immigration law and the de facto situation regarding enforcement that has affected illegal immigration have dramatically altered the pattern of countries of origin.12

As the result of the liberalizing changes, coupled with the steady allure of the U.S. economy, immigration has had considerable influence on population growth in the United States during the twentieth century. Any meaningful discussion of that impact must deal not only with sheer numbers, but also with the ratio of immigrants to the resident population. Figure 2.2 presents the same immigration


One complexity in Figure 2.1 deserves special mention. About 2.7 million formerly illegal immigrants received amnesty in 1986 and were allowed to seek permanent-resident status beginning in 1989. As these legalized aliens adjusted their legal status, the Immigration and Naturalization Service recorded them as new immigrants. A large proportion of the "immigrants" in official government data from 1989 to 1992 were persons who in fact had resided in the United States since before 1986. In 1991, for example, the INS recorded a total of 1,827,000 new immigrants; 1,123,000, or 61 percent, of those immigrants were IRCA legalization residents. The balance included 443,000 new arrivals and 261,000 persons adjusting from refugee and other forms of nonimmigrant status.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement