Did you notice that I didn’t use the word “immigrants”?
The USA remains a remarkable country in that it has, since its beginning, attracted new citizens from throughout the world, and continues to do so. Since the subject is currently of higher than usual temperature in Europe and North America, leading to the promulgation of misleading or misinterpreted information, I was delighted to come across USA-immigration statistics from the years 1820 through 2013, a span of almost 200 years.
I summarized the data in the following table, and subsidiary tables not displayed, then created several charts to highlight major aspects of the data.
(for a larger view, right click the table-image to get a drop-down menu from which you can open the image in a new tab).
See the Note at the end regarding African immigration.
The greatest impact of immigration on the existing population occurred in the time period 1870 – 1919, when 23 million people arrived from Europe, a number equal to the 21.7% of the population in the United States, 1920. You can review the table to see that, other than the first wave from Europe in 1820 – 1869, the subsequent waves from Europe, ‘North America’ and Asia of were of much lesser magnitude with respect to existing population. [See end note regarding “unauthorized” immigrants]
During the entire 193 years Europe has been the dominant exporter of new citizens to the USA, but this trend is declining. The dominant trend is now emigration from “North America.” This label needs explanation. These are all countries (other than the USA) in the continent, which (officially) includes: Canada, Caribbean, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, ‘Other Caribbean’, ‘Other America’. Here is the detail for these countries.
Here is a broader perspective on these numbers. During the 193 years studied here, around 75% of documented immigrants came from sixteen countries or areas, with more than 60 identified countries and areas comprising the remaining 25%. These are easily seen in an excel spreadsheet derived from the source document: usa-immigration-data
The two nations Austria and Hungary were once one nation and, over time, were reported/recorded together, then separately. I have combined all three entities for this study. I combined Norway and Sweden for reasons pertaining similarly to Austria-Hungary.
One final chart to increase our perspective:
Depending on one’s point of view, he or she will make conclusions regarding the above data and graphics. I make none, here, but offer the data as a basis for further discussion–which I welcome as responses to this article.
Note Regarding Africa: The official number does not include an estimated 450,000 Africans brought as slaves directly and indirectly to the USA during the times of the slave trade. The first African indentured servants arrived in 1619 in Jamestown (Colony of Virginia), and by the middle of the century the slave trade was firmly established. Congress prohibited the importation of slaves, effective in 1808, but illegal smuggling took place. Slave trade ceased completely sometime during the period between President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 and, finally, with the adoption of the 13th Amendment, 1865. (Source 1, Source 2)
Note Regarding unauthorized immigrants: The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has estimated that 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States in January 2012. In 2012, 52% were from Mexico, 15% from Central America, 12% from Asia, 6% from South America, 5% from the Caribbean, and another 5% from Europe and Canada. (Source).
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Hi Ron, Thank you for your “New post”. Indeed, you have made extremely interesting interpretations on the data presented at the “large official database on immigration” in USA.Congratulations! I have found very useful data for me to understand the process of immigration in USA during the centuries. Best, Vasil
The issue of unauthorized/undocumented (‘illegal’) immigrants always gets a lot of attention. And it should, if not for the reason most assume. Most immigrants throughout American history have always been unauthorized. That is simply the nature of American immigration. One of my ancestors was ‘illegally’ born in Native American territory when the British Empire was still enforcing the land treaties.
As for North America more broadly, most of the present United States used to be part of the Spanish Empire and later Mexico, until the land was stolen either from the Hispanics or Native Americans (most Mexicans are a mix of the two). Hispanics have been living in and migrating all around North America for longer than the United States has existed.
The border was intentionally kept porous even as the United States was established because American agriculture was and still largely is dependent on cheap immigrant labor. Migrant workers have been going back and forth across the border region continuously from when it was the Spanish frontier to the present.
Parts of the United States are and always have been majority Hispanic and Spanish-speaking, as most of the United States technically is and always has been part of Latin America. Hispanic culture is American culture. That historical reality is most stark in California where there are buildings older than the United States.
We talk so much about the Southern border. But it might be noted that most unauthorized immigrants don’t come across the border on foot or by any other means. Most instead come on airplanes and simply overstayed their visas.
I have just finished reading “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, By S. C. Gwynne. It is fascinating and in consonance with what you have written about the southern border…
My grandmother was born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, nearby the still ongoing Indian Wars. When my parents played Indians and Cowboys as children in the 1950s, the Indian Wars were still fresh in living memory.
“Also, the early twentieth century was a time of the last of the Indian Wars. There were major battles that happened in that part of the country when my grandmother was a child. The last significant altercation in the United States happened in 1924 when she was twelve years old and that is the age when kids begin to gain awareness of the larger world. But there were Indian holdouts who kept fighting in Mexico and weren’t defeated until nine years later in 1933. My grandmother was twenty-one years old at that point and so this was part of the world she was entering into.”