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(Almost) 200 Years of Legal
Immigration Numbers

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics is chock full of interesting numbers. Table 1 of the Yearbook displays the annual number of legal immigrants to the United States in every year going back almost 200 years – to 1820. These numbers provide context for today's immigration debate.

  • Number of legal immigrants admitted to the United States in 1820: 8,385
  • First year the annual number of legal immigrants exceeded 100,000: 1842
  • First year the annual number of legal immigrants exceeded 1,000,000: 1905
  • Number of years annual legal immigration has exceeded 1,000,000: 23
  • Peak number of annual legal immigrants: 1.8 million in 1991
  • Number of years annual legal immigrants were at least 1% of total population: 21
  • Most recent year annual legal immigrants were at least 1% of population: 1914
  • Number of legal immigrants in most recent year (2017): 1.1 million
  • Number of years annual legal immigration has exceeded 2017 level: 8
  • Legal immigrants in 2017 as percent of total U.S. population: 0.35%
  • Number of years annual legal immigration has exceeded 0.35% of population: 91

Source: Cheryl Russell’s “Demo Memo” analysis of the Department of Homeland Security's 2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics

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