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Immigration to America the year you were born

  • Immigration to America the year you were born
    1/ cla78 // Shutterstock

    Immigration to America the year you were born

    Immigration matters have long led some of America's most significant foreign policy decisions. What is different now compared to the early 20th century is that the foreign-born population is the highest it's ever been, with up to 13.7% of the U.S. made up of immigrants. Two years ago, approximately 44,525,900 immigrants were living in the U.S., compared to the 13,920,700 in 1920 who made up 13.2% of the population. Stacker looked to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Census Bureau, and the Migration Policy Institute for immigration data from 1920-2017. All data included was last updated on April 9, 2019 by the Department of Homeland Security.

    The research revealed that the “American Dream” of religious freedom and economic opportunity was in full-swing by 1920, with 42% of New Yorkers, 42% of San Franciscans, and 41% of Chicagoans being foreign-born. However, with the rise in immigration came restrictions on the flow of immigrants to the U.S., specifically with the Immigration Act of 1924. The desire to emigrate to the United States was so strong that in 1953, the New York Times ran a report detailing how Russians coveted what U.S. citizens had.

    In 1965, the face of America changed forever, according to NPR, reporting that at “the height of the civil rights movement, at a time when ideals of freedom, democracy, and equality had seized the nation,” how the U.S. decided who could enter became increasingly politically complex. President Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to those seeking refuge in the 1980s, but in 2001, the 9/11 terrorist attacks saw immigration services transferred to the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Though there had been a change in politics by 2009, immigration restrictions remained.

    Under President Barack Obama, the highest number of undocumented immigrant deportations took place, with more than 400,000 individuals leaving the United States between 2011 and 2014. President Donald Trump campaigned and won based on a number of immigration issues, including the construction of a wall on the border of Mexico.

    Read on to find out what immigration policies were like in America the year you were born.

    You may also like: State economies most and least impacted by immigration

  • 1920
    2/ Library of Congress

    1920

    - Total U.S. population: 106,461,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 430,001 (0.40% of population; #8 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 177,683 (81.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #84 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 14,557 (13.7 per 100k pop.; #49 highest)

    The Roaring Twenties brought in flappers and fast-rising urbanization and industrialization that had a significant impact on immigration. By 1920, up to 4 million immigrants had come to the U.S., many of which were Eastern European Jews seeking refuge from religious persecution. The early quotas that would be set for the Immigration Act of 1924 were being calculated at this time.

  • 1921
    3/ Library of Congress

    1921

    - Total U.S. population: 108,538,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 805,228 (0.74% of population; #1 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 181,292 (92.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #61 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 18,296 (16.9 per 100k pop.; #40 highest)

    Any immigration decline the U.S. experienced during World War I was long gone by 1921, when the Emergency Quota Act was signed. With this legislation, 357,000 immigrants were allowed to enter the U.S. each year. The act, signed into law by President Warren Harding, was created as a temporary measure, but remained intact until 1965.

  • 1922
    4/ Library of Congress

    1922

    - Total U.S. population: 110,049,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 309,556 (0.28% of population; #31 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 170,447 (104.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #14 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 18,076 (16.4 per 100k pop.; #41 highest)

    The Cable Act of 1922 reversed the Expatriation Act of 1907, which stripped American citizenship from any woman who married a foreigner. Also known as the Married Women's Independent Nationality Act, American women could retain their citizenship if their foreign husband were eligible for residency. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court took on the case of Takao Ozawa, a Japanese American who was not eligible for naturalization after living in America for 20 years.

  • 1923
    5/ Library of Congress

    1923

    - Total U.S. population: 111,947,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 522,919 (0.47% of population; #5 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 145,084 (87.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #70 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 24,280 (21.7 per 100k pop.; #30 highest)

    In 1923, the U.S. initiated the denaturalization of Indian citizens, beginning with the United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind. Thind's petition for naturalization under the Naturalization Act of 1906 was denied, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that no citizen of Indian descent could be considered American.

  • 1924
    6/ Library of Congress

    1924

    - Total U.S. population: 114,109,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 706,896 (0.62% of population; #4 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 150,510 (85.0% of naturalization petitions filed; #73 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 36,693 (32.2 per 100k pop.; #22 highest)

    The Immigration Act of 1924 mandated that only 2% of the total number of immigrants from each nationality could reside in the United States. Bill author and Washington State Rep. Albert Johnson said during the 1924 floor debate that “it has become necessary that the United States cease to become an asylum,” according to the Office of the Historian. The act also created an official border patrol.

  • 1925
    7/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1925

    - Total U.S. population: 115,829,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 294,314 (0.25% of population; #40 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 152,457 (94% of naturalization petitions filed; #56 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 34,885 (30.1 per 100k pop.; #23 highest)

    When Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, it “reflected the deep unease among native-born white Protestants,” according to the Oxford Encyclopedia. By 1925, all annual quotas were set in place, with Germany holding the most considerable allowance of 51,227 immigrants per year.

  • 1926
    8/ Library of Congress

    1926

    - Total U.S. population: 117,397,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 304,488 (0.26% of population; #36 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 146,331 (85% of naturalization petitions filed; #74 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 31,454 (26.8 per 100k pop.; #24 highest)

    Soon after the Immigration Act of 1924 quotas were established, the Cristero War erupted in Mexico and had a palpable effect on immigration, leading “new waves of emigrants, exiles and refugees who fled the violence and economic disruption,” according to the U.S. Library of Congress. Many Mexican Catholics disagreed with the government's restrictions on their religion, and engaged in dissent until the offending laws were annulled.

  • 1927
    9/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1927

    - Total U.S. population: 119,035,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 335,175 (0.28% of population; #30 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 199,804 (83.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #80 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 31,417 (26.4 per 100k pop.; #25 highest)

    On Sept. 16, 1927, a New York Times article reported that the U.S. Coast Guard patrol was being increased due to Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Greek, and Italian immigrants being smuggled into America from Cuba. The three countries with the most migration were Germany, Great Britain, and Northern Ireland. The three countries with the fewest migration were New Zealand, Egypt and the Pacific Islands, according to George Mason University.

  • 1928
    10/ Library of Congress

    1928

    - Total U.S. population: 120,509,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 307,255 (0.25% of population; #39 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 233,155 (97% of naturalization petitions filed; #39 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 30,464 (25.3 per 100k pop.; #28 highest)

    By 1928, border control had been established with local sheriffs, Texas Rangers, and railroad mail clerks. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Recruits furnished their horse and saddle, but Washington supplied oats and hay for the horses and a $1,680 annual salary.”

  • 1929
    11/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1929

    - Total U.S. population: 121,767,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 279,678 (0.23% of population; #51 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 224,728 (87.9% of naturalization petitions filed; #69 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 31,035 (25.5 per 100k pop.; #27 highest)

    After the 1929 Wall Street crash and onset of the Great Depression, Mexican repatriation efforts started the end of this year. These deportation drives occurred under President Herbert Hoover's administration, when local, state, and national officials pushed minority groups out of their homes in fear they'd “steal” any remaining American jobs.

  • 1930
    12/ Library of Congress

    1930

    - Total U.S. population: 123,076,741
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 241,700 (0.20% of population; #53 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 169,377 (149.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #3 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 24,864 (20.2 per 100k pop.; #33 highest)

    This year, President Hoover issued “the most far-reaching executive decision in the history of American immigration policy,” according to The Hill. Hoover only issued immigration visas to financially self-sufficient persons, assuring citizens received the first pick of jobs. More than one million Mexican immigrants were deported illegally as a result.

  • 1931
    13/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1931

    - Total U.S. population: 124,039,648
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 97,139 (0.08% of population; #84 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 143,495 (98.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #30 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 27,886 (22.5 per 100k pop.; #29 highest)

    The mass Mexican immigrant deportation continued under President Hoover's administration, with nearly 54,000 immigrants deported and 44,000 others leaving of their own accord. In early 1931, the Citizens Committee on Coordination of Unemployment Relief in Los Angeles conducted deportation raids with federal officials, while the Los Angeles County Department of Charities arranged alms-giving railroad rates for Mexicans to “voluntarily” return home.

  • 1932
    14/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1932

    - Total U.S. population: 124,840,471
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 35,576 (0.03% of population; #92 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 136,600 (104.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #15 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 26,490 (21.2 per 100k pop.; #31 highest)

    In the late 1920s and early 1930s, under President Hoover's watch, a wave of illegal and unconstitutional raids and deportations would alter the lives of nearly 2 million men, women, and children. In 2017, The Atlantic reported on the similarities between this time in American history and the present era.

  • 1933
    15/ Library of Congress

    1933

    - Total U.S. population: 125,578,763
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 23,068 (0.02% of population; #98 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 113,363 (100.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #23 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 25,392 (20.2 per 100k pop.; #32 highest)

    President Franklin Roosevelt was expected to remain vigilant in the Mexican repatriation efforts set up by President Hoover; however, the humanitarian emergency in Germany was on the forefront of politics at that point. “During Roosevelt's first term, tens of thousands of German Jews applied at American consulates to immigrate to the United States,” according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

  • 1934
    16/ Library of Congress

    1934

    - Total U.S. population: 126,373,773
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 29,470 (0.02% of population; #94 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 113,669 (97% of naturalization petitions filed; #38 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 14,263 (11.3 per 100k pop.; #59 highest)

    The Equal Nationality Act of 1934, also called the Citizenship Act, was a significant agreement allowing foreign-born children of American mothers and foreign fathers to apply for residency. “The right of citizenship shall not descend unless the child comes to the United States and resides therein for at least five years continuously, immediately previous to his eighteenth birthday,” according to the legislation.

  • 1935
    17/ Social Security Online // Wikimedia Commons

    1935

    - Total U.S. population: 127,250,232
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 34,956 (0.03% of population; #93 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 118,945 (90.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #64 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 13,877 (10.9 per 100k pop.; #62 highest)

    In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was passed, enabling only American workers the right to unionize and bargain collectively. The act was part of President Roosevelt's New Deal, a series of federal programs and projects created to alleviate the poverty caused by the Great Depression. Additionally, the Social Security Act of 1935 would further prevent undocumented immigrants from obtaining jobs.

  • 1936
    18/ Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library // Wikimedia Commons

    1936

    - Total U.S. population: 128,053,180
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 36,329 (0.03% of population; #91 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 141,265 (84.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #77 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 16,195 (12.6 per 100k pop.; #54 highest)

    Consistent with his efforts to prevent immigrants from taking jobs, President Roosevelt delivered a famous speech in front of the Statue of Liberty in 1936, 50 years after the statue's dedication ceremony. According to the National Park Service, "In the speech he presented immigration as a central part of the nation's past and emphasized the newcomers' capacity for Americanization.”

  • 1937
    19/ Library of Congress

    1937

    - Total U.S. population: 128,824,829
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 50,244 (0.04% of population; #89 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 164,976 (99.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #27 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 16,905 (13.1 per 100k pop.; #52 highest)

    1937 was very different from the era in which immigrants sought religious freedom and economic equality. Now, foreigners found safety in America as World War II began. President Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Act of 1937, which banned weapon sales with Spain, to further discourage war in Europe and keep arms away from Japanese, German, and Italian soldiers.

  • 1938
    20/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1938

    - Total U.S. population: 129,824,939
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 67,895 (0.05% of population; #87 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 162,078 (92.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #62 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 17,341 (13.4 per 100k pop.; #50 highest)

    German immigration began to increase as World War II accelerated in Europe during the 1930s, as citizens fled the country's brutal Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum reports that in June of 1938, nearly 140,000 Germans were on the waiting list to enter the United States. One year later, in 1939, the waiting list had risen to 309,782.

  • 1939
    21/ Library of Congress

    1939

    - Total U.S. population: 130,879,718
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 82,998 (0.06% of population; #85 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 188,813 (88.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #67 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 14,700 (11.2 per 100k pop.; #60 highest)

    By 1939, the quota for German citizens to enter the U.S. was full for the first time since 1930, with up to 27,370 immigrants receiving visas. The German migration was a direct result of Adolf Hitler's rule, and according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “for the first time during the period of Nazi rule, the State Department issued the maximum number of visas legally allowed.”

  • 1940
    22/ Library of Congress

    1940

    - Total U.S. population: 132,122,446
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 70,756 (0.05% of population; #86 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 235,260 (84.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #75 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 12,254 (9.3 per 100k pop.; #69 highest)

    The Nationality Act of 1940 was created to codify American nationality laws. The act, which consolidated and further defined existing immigration laws, mandated that all non-citizens register with the government or face deportation. Additionally, immigration status would be revoked for inconsistent U.S. residency.

  • 1941
    23/ Library of Congress

    1941

    - Total U.S. population: 133,402,471
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 51,776 (0.04% of population; #88 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 277,294 (99.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #26 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 7,336 (5.5 per 100k pop.; #82 highest)

    The year Japan attacked Pearl Harbor was also the end of the refugee crisis that had lasted nearly five years. According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, “Between 1939 and 1941, more than 300,000 Germans—mostly Jews— remained on the waiting list for immigration visas to the United States.”

  • 1942
    24/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1942

    - Total U.S. population: 134,859,553
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 28,781 (0.02% of population; #95 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 270,364 (78.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #88 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 5,542 (4.1 per 100k pop.; #95 highest)

    World War II industries demanded low-cost laborers and farmers, but with an insufficient U.S. workforce, American entered into the Bracero program with Mexico. The program welcomed immigrants to work in the U.S. for food, shelter, and a wage of 30 cents a day. The Library of Congress reports that "After the war, the U.S. began a new campaign of deportation, on a much larger scale than during the Depression.”

  • 1943
    25/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1943

    - Total U.S. population: 136,739,353
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 23,725 (0.02% of population; #97 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 318,933 (84.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #76 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 5,702 (4.2 per 100k pop.; #94 highest)

    Two years after China became an allied nation in 1941, the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943 revoked the 1882 restrictions on Chinese residents to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Also known as the Magnuson Act, the law did not allow these residents to own property or their own businesses.

  • 1944
    26/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1944

    - Total U.S. population: 138,397,345
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 28,551 (0.02% of population; #96 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 441,979 (135.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #5 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 8,821 (6.4 per 100k pop.; #81 highest)

    The Renunciation Act of 1944 was passed in order to ease deportation for Japanese Americans who wanted to return to Japan after being held in internments camps during World War II. Before this act, the only way to be stripped of American citizenship was by committing treason.

  • 1945
    27/ National Park Service

    1945

    - Total U.S. population: 139,928,165
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 38,119 (0.03% of population; #90 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 231,402 (118.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #9 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 13,611 (9.7 per 100k pop.; #67 highest)

    The War Brides Act of 1945 permitted the wives of U.S. armed forces to become citizens regardless of the Immigration Act of 1924's set quotas. Both natural and adopted children of a “war bride” and spouse were permitted citizenship under this act. Additionally, in 1945, the United Nations formed to end discriminatory immigration worldwide (among many other reasons).

  • 1946
    28/ Harry Truman presidential library // Wikimedia Commons

    1946

    - Total U.S. population: 141,388,566
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 108,721 (0.08% of population; #83 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 150,062 (121.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #7 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 17,317 (12.2 per 100k pop.; #55 highest)

    Like the War Brides Act of 1945, the Fiancées Act of 1946 granted citizenship to women who intended to marry American servicemen, regardless of the set quotas in the Immigration Act of 1924. By 1946, nearly 45,000 foreign-born women had entered the U.S., and faced swift deportation if their fiancés backed out of the engagement.

  • 1947
    29/ Library of Congress

    1947

    - Total U.S. population: 144,126,071
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 147,292 (0.10% of population; #82 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 93,904 (105.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #13 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 23,434 (16.3 per 100k pop.; #43 highest)

    In January of 1947, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 was repealed by the Canadian Parliament with the intent of lightening the restrictions on Chinese immigrants. 62 years before the repeal, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 permitted a head tax on all Chinese immigrants entering the U.S.

  • 1948
    30/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1948

    - Total U.S. population: 146,631,302
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 170,570 (0.12% of population; #80 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 70,150 (102.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #16 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 25,276 (17.2 per 100k pop.; #38 highest)

    The quotas set in the Immigration Act of 1924 were lifted in 1948 when the Displaced Persons Act allowed 200,000 people displaced by WWII to immigrate to the U.S. The act was amended in 1950 to add 200,000 more. A total of 600,000 refugees more than national quotas permitted were brought to the U.S., and lived in Displaced Persons (DP) camps under President Harry Truman's administration.

  • 1949
    31/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1949

    - Total U.S. population: 149,188,130
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 188,317 (0.13% of population; #79 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 66,594 (93.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #58 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 23,874 (16 per 100k pop.; #44 highest)

    By 1949, the effects of the national origins quota system, World War II, and the migration of agricultural workers from Mexico began to shift. More Asian and African immigrants were making their way to the U.S., rather than European immigrants.

  • 1950
    32/ Tim Davenport // Wikimedia Commons

    1950

    - Total U.S. population: 152,271,417
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 249,187 (0.16% of population; #68 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 66,346 (100.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #24 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 10,199 (6.7 per 100k pop.; #79 highest)

    With Cold War politics on the rise, the U.S. passed the Internal Security Act, which banned communists from becoming American citizens. Also called the McCarran Act, which was vetoed by President Truman and overridden by Congress, the legislation permitted the detention of any communist suspected of espionage. Additionally, immigrants of Asian descent became eligible for citizenship.

  • 1951
    33/ Central Press // Getty Images

    1951

    - Total U.S. population: 154,877,889
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 205,717 (0.13% of population; #78 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 54,716 (88.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #66 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 17,328 (11.2 per 100k pop.; #61 highest)

    1951 was a crucial year in America's confrontation of communism, between the International Security Act of 1950 and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (both of which targeted communist immigrants). In 1951, Ellis Island became a Cold War detention center, where immigrants were mandated to pass mental and physical exams before entry into the U.S.

  • 1952
    34/ Library of Congress

    1952

    - Total U.S. population: 157,552,740
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 265,520 (0.17% of population; #65 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 88,655 (94.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #54 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 23,125 (14.7 per 100k pop.; #45 highest)

    As with his attempt to abolish the International Security Act of 1950, President Truman failed to veto the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which allowed for increased power to deport communist immigrants. The act also established a labor classification system for foreign-born immigrants who excelled at specific jobs or could prove they had American relatives.

  • 1953
    35/ Douglas Grundy // Getty Images

    1953

    - Total U.S. population: 160,184,192
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 170,434 (0.11% of population; #81 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 92,051 (93.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #57 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 23,482 (14.7 per 100k pop.; #46 highest)

    Passed by the 83rd Congress, the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, also known as the Special Migration Act of 1953, replaced the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 (which expired in 1952). A total of 218,000 Italian, Greek, and Dutch immigrants—among others—found legal refuge in the U.S during this time.   

  • 1954
    36/ B. Newman // Getty Images

    1954

    - Total U.S. population: 163,025,854
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 208,177 (0.13% of population; #77 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 117,831 (90.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #65 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 30,264 (18.6 per 100k pop.; #35 highest)

    In 1954, the dubiously titled Operation Wetback took effect, with the U.S. deporting more than 1.3 million Mexicans. These residents had migrated as agricultural laborers during World War II, as Americans were occupied by wartime industry jobs. After the need for workers had ceased, Mexican and U.S. officials cooperated in relocating, voluntarily or otherwise, all unauthorized immigrants in California, Arizona, and Texas.

  • 1955
    37/ Vecchio // Getty Images

    1955

    - Total U.S. population: 165,931,202
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 237,790 (0.14% of population; #76 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 209,526 (98.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #36 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 17,695 (10.7 per 100k pop.; #63 highest)

    Considered the fourth wave of immigration, nearly 240,000 foreign-born people obtained permanent legal status in 1955. A large number of immigrants who entered Ellis Island this year were the Italian and Irish laborers who built New York City into a bustling metropolis.

  • 1956
    38/ Three Lions // Getty Images

    1956

    - Total U.S. population: 168,903,031
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 321,625 (0.19% of population; #56 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 145,885 (105.9% of naturalization petitions filed; #12 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 9,006 (5.3 per 100k pop.; #85 highest)

    Duplicating naturalization records was commonplace between September 1906 and March 1956, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In 1956, U.S. Courts continued to copy these records and file them in all immigrants' files, along with a unique personal identifier known as an Alien Registration Number.

  • 1957
    39/ Harry Kerr // Getty Images

    1957

    - Total U.S. population: 171,984,130
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 326,867 (0.19% of population; #55 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 138,043 (98.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #34 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 5,989 (3.5 per 100k pop.; #98 highest)

    According to genealogy website Findmypast, 1957 was the first year in which immigrants to New York City traveled more commonly by air than by sea. A collection of nearly 60 million records was maintained up until 1957, documenting each immigrant's birth country, date of birth, arrival year, and ship name.

  • 1958
    40/ Orlando // Getty Images

    1958

    - Total U.S. population: 174,881,904
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 253,265 (0.14% of population; #75 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 119,866 (102.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #19 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 7,875 (4.5 per 100k pop.; #91 highest)

    In 1958, Sen. John F. Kennedy wrote a book titled “A Nation of Immigrants.” Spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform Ira Mehlman had said that “...the ideas expressed in ‘A Nation of Immigrants' ultimately became the basis for the immigration reforms of 1965 which, to this day, stand as the foundation of U.S. immigration policy.” The book has been revised since Kennedy's assassination.

  • 1959
    41/ George Pickow // Getty Images

    1959

    - Total U.S. population: 177,829,628
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 260,686 (0.15% of population; #74 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 103,931 (95.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #51 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 8,468 (4.8 per 100k pop.; #90 highest)

    The Cuban Revolution, the 1959 armed revolt against President Fulgencio Batista, brought large-scale immigration to the U.S. as a result of Fidel Castro's eventual communist takeover. According to the Migration Policy Institute, “The Cuban population in the United States grew almost six-fold within a decade, from 79,000 in 1960 to 439,000 in 1970.”

  • 1960
    42/ Alfred Eisenstaedt // Getty Images

    1960

    - Total U.S. population: 180,671,158
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 265,398 (0.15% of population; #73 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 119,442 (93.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #59 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 7,240 (4 per 100k pop.; #97 highest)

    The Western Hemisphere had become the most prominent source of migration by 1960, according to Boundless Immigration. “The civil rights movement and a burgeoning counterculture helped to pull society away from racial and ethnic discrimination and from the policies that had typified the post-World War II establishment,” according to the organization.

  • 1961
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    1961

    - Total U.S. population: 183,691,481
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 271,344 (0.15% of population; #72 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 132,450 (95.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #48 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 8,181 (4.5 per 100k pop.; #92 highest)

    This year, the U.S. was beginning to consider abolishing the national origins formula that dated back to the 1921 Emergency Quota Act. The civil rights movement across the U.S. also contributed to racial tensions, which further fueled immigration issues.

  • 1962
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    1962

    - Total U.S. population: 186,537,737
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 283,763 (0.15% of population; #71 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 127,307 (98.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #35 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 8,025 (4.3 per 100k pop.; #93 highest)

    Boundless Immigration, reports that in the early 1960s, “...residents of Ireland, Germany, and the United Kingdom received almost 70% of available quota visas.” In the early 1960s, the hippie movement began to rise, influencing society with its all-inclusive and immigrant-friendly nature.

  • 1963
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    1963

    - Total U.S. population: 189,241,798
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 306,260 (0.16% of population; #67 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 124,178 (102.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #17 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 7,763 (4.1 per 100k pop.; #96 highest)

    1963's iconic March on Washington had a significant impact on immigration policy reform. The Huffington Post reports that “Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform and the anti-immigrant activists who oppose it have one thing in common: both invoke the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.”

  • 1964
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    1964

    - Total U.S. population: 191,888,791
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 292,248 (0.15% of population; #70 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 112,234 (99.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #29 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 9,167 (4.8 per 100k pop.; #89 highest)

    The Bracero Program, instated during World War II, welcomed immigrants to work in the U.S. in exchange for food, shelter, and a nominal daily wage, came to an end after being extended multiple times. By 1964, the push for American labor was strong, resulting in reduced demand for immigrant workers.

  • 1965
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    1965

    - Total U.S. population: 194,302,963
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 296,697 (0.15% of population; #69 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 104,299 (97.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #37 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 10,572 (5.4 per 100k pop.; #84 highest)

    The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, also called the Hart-Cellar Act, eliminated nation of origin quotas, replacing it with a visa system. “The 1965 Act also inadvertently laid the foundation for the steep rise in illegal immigration since the 1970s,” reports the Migration Policy Institute. According to their records, up to 74% of visas were family members of naturalized U.S. citizens, most of which were European. The act also led to chain migration, in which “one naturalized citizen from a non-European nation would mean numerous family members migrating as well.”

  • 1966
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    1966

    - Total U.S. population: 196,560,338
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 323,040 (0.16% of population; #66 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 103,059 (98.3% of naturalization petitions filed; #33 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 9,680 (4.9 per 100k pop.; #86 highest)

    President Lyndon Johnson signed the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act of 1966, allowing Cuban nationals who entered the U.S. as of 1959 to obtain green cards. 30 years later in 1996, the act began barring immigrants found in international waters from getting a visa.

  • 1967
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    1967

    - Total U.S. population: 198,712,056
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 361,972 (0.18% of population; #63 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 104,902 (96.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #40 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 9,728 (4.9 per 100k pop.; #87 highest)

    After the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965 revoked the immigrant quota system, America's demographic makeup changed dramatically. No longer were Europeans fleeing to America in search of a better life; instead the largest numbers of immigrants were Asian, African, and Latin American. Under this act, relatives of U.S. citizens who had specific labor skills deemed useful received preference.

  • 1968
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    1968

    - Total U.S. population: 200,706,052
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 454,448 (0.23% of population; #50 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 102,726 (99.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #28 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 9,590 (4.8 per 100k pop.; #88 highest)

    Mexico's 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, on the eve of the Olympics in Mexico City, drew national attention when student protestors fought for democratic rights against an authoritarian government. Similar to youth in America during the same time, Mexican students also inspired labor movements and rural social activism.

  • 1969
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    1969

    - Total U.S. population: 202,676,946
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 358,579 (0.18% of population; #64 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 98,709 (96.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #41 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 11,030 (5.4 per 100k pop.; #83 highest)

    Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey summarized migration from Central America in 1969 for the Los Angeles Times: “Mexican migration flows that had developed over previous decades continued largely apace after 1968 (when both the Hart-Celler cap and termination took effect) as employers across the Southwest and West continued to rely on Mexican labor.”

  • 1970
    52/ Library of Congress

    1970

    - Total U.S. population: 205,052,174
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 373,326 (0.18% of population; #61 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 110,399 (96.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #43 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 17,469 (8.5 per 100k pop.; #72 highest)

    Pew Research Center reports that in 1970, up to 42% of newly arrived immigrants were in “...managerial, professional, technical, sales and administrative support occupations,” with most foreign-born newcomers settling in California, New York, Texas, and Florida. The skills and occupations of immigrants by 1970 exceeded those in the past, partially since the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 welcomed highly skilled workers in the U.S.

  • 1971
    53/ Library of Congress

    1971

    - Total U.S. population: 207,660,677
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 370,478 (0.18% of population; #62 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 108,407 (98.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #31 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 18,294 (8.8 per 100k pop.; #71 highest)

    The National Academies of Press (NAP) reports that 1971 would see the migration of about 17 million immigrants “including 1.6 million formerly unauthorized aliens” as well as “1.1 million Special Agricultural Workers,” who were admitted into the U.S. up until 1995. “The scale of contemporary immigration almost matched that during the first quarter of the century (17.2 million admissions between 1901 and 1925), when immigration to the United States was at its peak,” according to NAP.

  • 1972
    54/ Library of Congress

    1972

    - Total U.S. population: 209,896,021
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 384,685 (0.18% of population; #60 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 116,215 (95.3% of naturalization petitions filed; #50 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 16,883 (8 per 100k pop.; #75 highest)

    The Green Card Through Registry program was implemented on Jan. 1, 1972, allowing certain individuals to apply for citizenship even if they were in the country unlawfully before that date. Eligible criteria included being of good moral character, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The bureau adds that “no criminal, procurer, other immoral person, subversive, violator of the narcotics laws or alien smuggler,” would be permitted U.S. citizenship.

  • 1973
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    1973

    - Total U.S. population: 211,908,788
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 398,515 (0.19% of population; #54 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 120,404 (94.9% of naturalization petitions filed; #53 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 17,346 (8.2 per 100k pop.; #74 highest)

    1973 marked the end of a mass migration of foreign-born medical professionals entering America. “More than 50,000 physicians and nurses emigrated to the U.S. between 1969 and 1973, most of them from countries like the Philippines, South Korea, Pakistan and China,” according to Politico.

  • 1974
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    1974

    - Total U.S. population: 213,853,928
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 393,919 (0.18% of population; #58 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 131,153 (96.3% of naturalization petitions filed; #42 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 19,413 (9.1 per 100k pop.; #70 highest)

    America was facing the energy crisis of the 1970s, and the oil embargo of 1973–74 was impacting the U.S. economy. “Governments attempt to reduce the number of foreign residents, but the number of immigrants actually rises through family reunion,” reported Al Jazeera. “Foreign guest workers become more visible in society and now become visible local fixtures.”

  • 1975
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    1975

    - Total U.S. population: 215,973,199
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 385,378 (0.18% of population; #59 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 140,749 (94.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #55 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 24,432 (11.3 per 100k pop.; #58 highest)

    After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, South Vietnamese immigrants began to enter the United States, settling mainly in California and Texas. The immigrants were often referred to as “Vietnamese boat people” since they left their country by boat or ship.

  • 1976
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    1976

    - Total U.S. population: 218,035,164
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 499,093 (0.23% of population; #49 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 189,988 (95.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #49 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 38,471 (17.6 per 100k pop.; #36 highest)

    The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1976 were enacted due to a “lack of preference categories for aliens from the Western Hemisphere,” according to Cleveland State Law Review. Before 1976, the same immigrants received no priority and could only enter the U.S. by petition order.

  • 1977
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    1977

    - Total U.S. population: 220,239,425
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 458,755 (0.21% of population; #52 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 159,873 (85.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #72 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 31,263 (14.2 per 100k pop.; #47 highest)

    Sen. Edward Kennedy began composing the bill behind the Refugee Act of 1980, which he would present to the Senate in 1979. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, “the bill was amended in 1977, again under Kennedy's leadership, to permit refugees to adjust to parolee status and later to become permanent residents.”

  • 1978
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    1978

    - Total U.S. population: 222,584,545
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 589,810 (0.26% of population; #35 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 171,971 (101.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #20 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 29,277 (13.2 per 100k pop.; #51 highest)

    The Nationality Act Amendments of 1976, which offered preferential treatment to foreign-born immigrants who excelled in certain professions, began to cause shifts immigration statistics. “The Western Hemisphere was given a quota of 120,000 immigrants per year, and in 1978, the Eastern and Western Hemisphere quotas were combined into one system with a worldwide ceiling of 290,000,” reports the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

  • 1979
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    1979

    - Total U.S. population: 225,055,487
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 394,244 (0.18% of population; #57 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 163,107 (98.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #32 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 26,825 (11.9 per 100k pop.; #57 highest)

    In September of 1979, the Immigration and Nationality Efficiency Act of 1979 was introduced by Sen. Ted Kennedy. He hoped to enhance the efficiency of the Immigration and Naturalization Service as well as create a different numerical cutoff for foreigners seeking to immigrate. The bill was introduced again in July 1980, but was not enacted, according to GovTrack.

  • 1980
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    1980

    - Total U.S. population: 226,546,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 524,295 (0.23% of population; #48 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 156,627 (81.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #83 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 18,013 (8 per 100k pop.; #76 highest)

    Signed by President Jimmy Carter, the Refugee Act of 1980 served as the country's first all-inclusive refugee acceptance program, increasing the annual limit from 17,400 to 50,000. The legislation replaced provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This allowed for any president to change the 50,000 annual limit for immigrants for one year under emergency circumstances.

  • 1981
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    1981

    - Total U.S. population: 229,466,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 595,014 (0.26% of population; #34 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 164,389 (96.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #46 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 17,379 (7.6 per 100k pop.; #78 highest)

    The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1981 created dozens of provisions, including the exclusion of “adultery and possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana from the determination of good moral character under such Act.” One provision kept any foreign-born person participating in Nazi-related persecutions from leaving voluntarily, with deportation being the only option.

  • 1982
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    1982

    - Total U.S. population: 231,664,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 533,624 (0.23% of population; #47 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 141,004 (70% of naturalization petitions filed; #92 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 15,216 (6.6 per 100k pop.; #80 highest)

    The 1982 Plyler v. Doe ruling resulted in unauthorized immigrants being covered by Fourteenth Amendment equal protection laws. This also explicitly allowed for educational funding for undocumented immigrant children enrolled in U.S. public school districts. The ruling specifically included children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

  • 1983
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    1983

    - Total U.S. population: 233,792,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 550,052 (0.24% of population; #44 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 178,415 (95% of naturalization petitions filed; #52 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 19,211 (8.2 per 100k pop.; #73 highest)

    In 1983, The Atlantic reported on the effects of immigration on America, noting the large volume of Florida, Texas, and California immigrants' need for additional public assistance: “...if Orange County, California, or Dade County, Florida, or Bexar County, Texas ends up bearing an unfair burden for this change in national policy, the federal government should offer reimbursement,” the publication wrote.

  • 1984
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    1984

    - Total U.S. population: 235,825,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 541,811 (0.23% of population; #46 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 195,862 (68.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #93 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 18,696 (7.9 per 100k pop.; #77 highest)

    National Public Radio covered President Ronald Reagan's thoughts on immigration and amnesty in 1984. "I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally," Reagan said, during a televised debate with Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale.

  • 1985
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    1985

    - Total U.S. population: 237,924,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 568,149 (0.24% of population; #43 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 242,451 (79.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #86 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 23,105 (9.7 per 100k pop.; #68 highest)

    A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and make immigration laws more comprehensive was introduced on Jan. 3, 1985 by Rep. Edward Roybal, a Democrat from California's 25th congressional district. The bill, presented in a previous Congress session, was never enacted.

  • 1986
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    1986

    - Total U.S. population: 240,133,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 600,027 (0.25% of population; #37 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 279,497 (96.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #45 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 24,592 (10.2 per 100k pop.; #65 highest)

    President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) into law, instituting several provisions that included granting amnesty to immigrants who had been living illegally in the U.S. since January 1982. The act also prohibited employers from hiring unauthorized immigrants as laborers. Additionally, it created a new classification of temporary agricultural workers, and started a visa waiver pilot program for non-immigrants without documentation.

  • 1987
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    1987

    - Total U.S. population: 242,289,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 599,889 (0.25% of population; #38 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 223,249 (95.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #47 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 24,336 (10 per 100k pop.; #66 highest)

    1987 and 1988 would bring post-IRCA “split-eligibility” family issues before Congress, with the the National Conference of Catholic Bishops criticizing family separation under President Reagan's rule, according to the American Immigration Council. “The Los Angeles Catholic archdiocese reports that up to 30% of the legalization applications it was assisting involved ‘split-eligibility' families,” reported the council.

  • 1988
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    1988

    - Total U.S. population: 244,499,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 641,346 (0.26% of population; #33 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 240,775 (101.3% of naturalization petitions filed; #21 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 25,829 (10.6 per 100k pop.; #64 highest)

    President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 as recompense to more than 100,000 Japanese immigrants who were held in internment camps during World War II. Along with a formal apology, the government offered $20,000 to every surviving victim, with payments beginning in 1990. Additionally, the act strongly discouraged any similar forced removal and confinement of foreigners.

  • 1989
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    1989

    - Total U.S. population: 246,819,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,090,172 (0.44% of population; #6 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 232,655 (102.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #18 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 34,427 (13.9 per 100k pop.; #48 highest)

    Due to a nursing shortage, the Nursing Relief Act of 1989 enabled nonimmigrants who had been employed as registered U.S. nurses for a minimum of three years to apply for permanent resident status. This act created the H-1A visa for nurses, remaining in effect until 1995. All H-class visas required an offer of employment in the U.S.

  • 1990
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    1990

    - Total U.S. population: 249,623,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,535,872 (0.62% of population; #3 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 267,586 (114.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #10 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 30,039 (12 per 100k pop.; #56 highest)

    The Migration Policy Institute reports the Immigration Act of 1990, which is still in place today, shifted from a “near-total” focus on family-based immigration to individual admittance based on education and skill. The act provided for the EB-5 visa, which offered green cards to foreign investors who invested at least $1 million in a business that employed 10 or more U.S. workers. The Center for Immigration Studies reported in 1990 that up to 19.8 million individuals, or 7.9% of the American population, were foreign-born.

  • 1991
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    1991

    - Total U.S. population: 252,981,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,826,595 (0.72% of population; #2 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 307,394 (148.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #4 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 33,189 (13.1 per 100k pop.; #53 highest)

    Also called the Six and Six Program, the 1991 Armed Forces Immigration Adjustment Act granted special status to immigrants who served in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least 12 years. For immigrants who served only six years, special immigrant status applied if they re-enlisted for an additional six years. The fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 1990s brought forth a wave of European immigration, including those from the former Soviet Union.

  • 1992
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    1992

    - Total U.S. population: 256,514,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 973,445 (0.38% of population; #10 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 239,664 (70.0% of naturalization petitions filed; #91 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 43,671 (17 per 100k pop.; #39 highest)

    This year marked another wave in immigration, according to the Pew Research Center report “The Rise, Peak, and Decline Trends in U.S. Immigration from 1992-2004.” Aliens entering the U.S. both legally and illegally proliferated before peaking in 1999 and declining substantially after 2001. The Center for Immigration Studies reported an overall immigration rise to 17.6%, or 1.2 million, in 1992. Most of the increase was comprised of job and family-related cases, as well as refugees.

  • 1993
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    1993

    - Total U.S. population: 259,919,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 903,916 (0.35% of population; #17 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 313,590 (60.1% of naturalization petitions filed; #94 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 42,542 (16.4 per 100k pop.; #42 highest)

    The Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993, proposed by Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, never passed Congress. The bill intended to curb criminal conduct committed by immigrants, help stop international terrorism, further guard U.S. employees from unfair labor competition, and strengthen border security. Though Reid's bill failed, border control security was enhanced with Operation Hold the Line, which consisted of human and vehicular blockades along the U.S. and Mexico border.

  • 1994
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    1994

    - Total U.S. population: 263,126,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 803,993 (0.31% of population; #27 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 429,123 (79% of naturalization petitions filed; #87 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 45,674 (17.4 per 100k pop.; #37 highest)

    In 1994, under President Bill Clinton's direction, the first U.S. borders walls were built in Texas, California, and Arizona. The Center for Immigration Studies reported the 1994 statistics on U.S. immigration in detail, noting that while the U.S. populace appeared to be growing in 1994, world population growth was in fact more significant.

  • 1995
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    1995

    - Total U.S. population: 266,278,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 720,177 (0.27% of population; #32 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 485,720 (50.6% of naturalization petitions filed; #95 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 50,924 (19.1 per 100k pop.; #34 highest)

    President Clinton used his 1995 State of the Union address to share where the U.S. stood on immigration at the time “We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws,” he said. “It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.” President Clinton's speech foretold the major immigration reform that came the following year.

  • 1996
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    1996

    - Total U.S. population: 269,394,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 915,560 (0.34% of population; #21 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 1,040,991 (81.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #82 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 69,680 (25.9 per 100k pop.; #26 highest)

    Signed into law by President Clinton, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 significantly altered laws concerning foreign-born residents. Some of the new provisions included increased border security, enhanced criminal alien laws, visa waiver program revisions, green card lottery changes, and “mail order bride” regulations. The act also included further employment and benefits restrictions for immigrants.

  • 1997
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    1997

    - Total U.S. population: 272,647,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 797,847 (0.29% of population; #29 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 596,010 (42.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #98 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 114,432 (42 per 100k pop.; #21 highest)

    One year after implementing a major immigration overhaul, President Clinton signed the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act into law in November of 1997. The act enabled certain Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Cubans, as well as their children, to apply for permanent residence in the U.S.

  • 1998
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    1998

    - Total U.S. population: 275,854,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 653,206 (0.24% of population; #42 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 461,169 (49.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #96 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 174,813 (63.4 per 100k pop.; #19 highest)

    This year saw the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998, which increased the H-1B visa annual cap from 65,000 to 115,000 for 1999 and created new fees and penalties. The cap decreased in both 2000 and 2001 before eventually returning to 65,000 in 2002. Additionally, the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act was passed in 1998, allowing certain nationals of Haiti to become U.S. citizens.

  • 1999
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    1999

    - Total U.S. population: 279,040,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 644,787 (0.23% of population; #45 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 837,418 (109.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #11 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 183,114 (65.6 per 100k pop.; #18 highest)

    In March of 1999, Rodriguez v. United States gained national attention, shining a light on immigrants receiving Social Security Income (SSI). According to FindLaw, the case challenged the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which stipulated that only specific categories of aliens remained eligible for SSI or food stamps. The class action group of plaintiffs, who did not fit the criteria, contended that this was discrimination and violated their Fifth Amendment rights.

  • 2000
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    2000

    - Total U.S. population: 282,172,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 841,002 (0.30% of population; #28 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 886,026 (192.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #2 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 188,467 (66.8 per 100k pop.; #16 highest)

    The 21st century saw a record-setting decade of immigration, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Beginning in 2000, the immigrant population grew to more than twice the national average of 28% by 2010 in 13 states.

  • 2001
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    2001

    - Total U.S. population: 285,082,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,058,902 (0.37% of population; #14 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 606,259 (120.9% of naturalization petitions filed; #8 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 189,026 (66.3 per 100k pop.; #17 highest)

    The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, quickly spawned a sharp increase in immigration enforcement. Since 9/11 there have been more cases of deportation, police officers serving as immigration agents, and corporate profit.

  • 2002
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    2002

    - Total U.S. population: 287,804,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,059,356 (0.37% of population; #13 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 572,646 (81.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #81 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 165,168 (57.4 per 100k pop.; #20 highest)

    In 1992, President George Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, which connected immigration screening and national security protection. Additionally, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002 created the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which shares information with federal law enforcement and mandates a biometric identifier.

  • 2003
    85/ US Coast Guard // Getty Images

    2003

    - Total U.S. population: 290,326,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 703,542 (0.24% of population; #41 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 462,435 (88.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #68 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 211,098 (72.7 per 100k pop.; #15 highest)

    The Migration Policy Institute reports that the number of immigrants granted legal status in 2003 dropped by 34%, from about 1 million the previous year to slightly more than 700,000. Additionally, temporary non-immigrant admissions totaled nearly 28 million, 15% below pre-9/11 figures.

  • 2004
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    2004

    - Total U.S. population: 293,046,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 957,883 (0.33% of population; #24 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 537,151 (81% of naturalization petitions filed; #85 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 240,665 (82.1 per 100k pop.; #14 highest)

    Changes were made to the visa application process in 2004. Some of the new provisions included enhanced penalties for abuse of the L-1 intra-company transfer visa, and the addition of 20,000 new H-1B openings for foreign-born students who had earned masters degrees from U.S. colleges.

  • 2005
    87/ DON EMMERT // Getty Images

    2005

    - Total U.S. population: 295,753,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,122,257 (0.38% of population; #9 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 604,280 (100.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #25 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 246,431 (83.3 per 100k pop.; #13 highest)

    The Real ID Act of 2005 established "official purpose" security standards for state identification and driver's licenses. This included several other provisions, such as bypassing laws that prohibit building walls along U.S. borders, funding new reports related to border security, and strengthening political asylum laws.

  • 2006
    88/ DON EMMERT // Getty Images

    2006

    - Total U.S. population: 298,593,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,266,129 (0.42% of population; #7 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 702,589 (96.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #44 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 280,974 (94.1 per 100k pop.; #11 highest)

    The Secure Fence Act in 2006 approved the construction of 700 miles of high-security fencing along the U.S. and Mexico border. Three years later, more than 600 miles of new fencing and vehicle barriers were constructed by the Department of Homeland Security. “Digital fencing, monitored through cameras and other technology, was piloted but found to be prohibitively expensive to expand,” according to USAFacts.

  • 2007
    89/ Torsten Henning // Wikimedia Commons

    2007

    - Total U.S. population: 301,580,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,052,415 (0.35% of population; #16 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 660,477 (47.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #97 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 319,382 (105.9 per 100k pop.; #8 highest)

    The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 would have assisted up to 12 million immigrants on the pathway to citizenship, but failed to do so when presented to the 110th Congress. Hotly debated by both sides in May 2007, the bill never went to a vote.

  • 2008
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    2008

    - Total U.S. population: 304,375,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,107,126 (0.36% of population; #15 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 1,046,539 (199% of naturalization petitions filed; #1 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 359,795 (118.2 per 100k pop.; #7 highest)

    There was increased deportation in 2008, attributed in part to enhanced data sharing programs. “The program emphasized improving data sharing and prioritizing deportations for criminal offenders,” according to USAFacts, adding the program was discontinued in 2014 and reinstated in 2017.

  • 2009
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    2009

    - Total U.S. population: 307,007,000
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,130,818 (0.37% of population; #12 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 743,715 (130.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #6 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 379,754 (123.7 per 100k pop.; #5 highest)

    President Barack Obama pushed immigration legislation during his first year in office, but more pressing economic concerns delayed those plans. More than a million people obtained legal status, the second-highest total since 1991, while 379,000 others were removed—the most ever in American history.

  • 2010
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    2010

    - Total U.S. population: 309,326,090
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,042,625 (0.34% of population; #20 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 619,913 (87.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #71 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 382,473 (123.6 per 100k pop.; #6 highest)

    The number of people obtaining permanent status reached a six-year low, while removals continued to climb. At the state level, Arizona passed SB 1070, a bill that required immigrants to carry identifying papers at all times, and subjected them to police stops. This touched off a national debate on individual rights.

  • 2011
    93/ John Moore // Getty Images

    2011

    - Total U.S. population: 311,580,010
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,062,040 (0.34% of population; #19 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 694,193 (91.8% of naturalization petitions filed; #63 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 390,464 (125.3 per 100k pop.; #4 highest)

    Record deportations, “administrative amnesty,” and harsh state laws marked 2011's immigration policy, according to U.S. News and World Report. Nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants, mostly felons, were deported. Meanwhile, a number of southern states followed Arizona's SB 1070 with controversial laws of their own.

  • 2012
    94/ DON EMMERT // Getty Images

    2012

    - Total U.S. population: 313,874,220
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,031,631 (0.33% of population; #23 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 757,434 (84.2% of naturalization petitions filed; #79 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 415,700 (132.4 per 100k pop.; #2 highest)

    Delays in immigration reform came to an end as the Obama administration enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This would not create a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, but would instead defer deportation for two years for immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 18. Despite a slowdown in deportations as a result, the 415,000 who were deported represents the second-highest total in American history.

  • 2013
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    2013

    - Total U.S. population: 316,057,730
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 990,553 (0.31% of population; #26 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 779,929 (100.9% of naturalization petitions filed; #22 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 432,448 (136.8 per 100k pop.; #1 highest)

    According to Politico, the “most monumental overhaul of immigration laws in a generation” passed easily through the Senate, but stalled in the House. "The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said at the time. 2013 was the first year in a decade that the number of people obtaining permanent status dipped below 1 million.

  • 2014
    96/ JIM WATSON // Getty Images

    2014

    - Total U.S. population: 318,386,420
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,016,518 (0.32% of population; #25 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 653,416 (84.4% of naturalization petitions filed; #78 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 405,620 (127.4 per 100k pop.; #3 highest)

    The 2014 American Immigration Crisis consisted of tens of thousands of Central American women and children seeking asylum in the U.S. According to the American Immigration Council, President Obama designated this migration a humanitarian crisis, which garnered widespread congressional and media attention.

  • 2015
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    2015

    - Total U.S. population: 320,742,670
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,051,031 (0.33% of population; #22 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 730,259 (93.3% of naturalization petitions filed; #60 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 326,406 (101.8 per 100k pop.; #10 highest)

    By 2015, President Obama deported more immigrants under his administration than President Trump currently has, reported by U.S. News & World Report. "Total deportations by ICE hovered around 400,000 annually in each of the first four years of Obama's presidency," according to the publication.

  • 2016
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    2016

    - Total U.S. population: 323,071,340
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,183,505 (0.37% of population; #11 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 753,060 (77.5% of naturalization petitions filed; #89 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 333,592 (103.3 per 100k pop.; #9 highest)

    The Center for Immigration Studies reports that the U.S. immigrant population hit a record 43.7 million in 2016, citing “The number of immigrants (legal and illegal) from the Middle East, Latin American countries other than Mexico, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa grew significantly, while the number from some places, such as Mexico, Europe, and Canada, grew not at all or even declined.”

  • 2017
    99/ SAUL LOEB // Getty Images

    2017

    - Total U.S. population: 325,147,120
    - People obtaining permanent legal status: 1,127,167 (0.35% of population; #18 highest for all years)
    - People naturalized: 707,265 (71.7% of naturalization petitions filed; #90 highest)
    - Undocumented immigrant removals: 295,364 (90.8 per 100k pop.; #12 highest)

    The immigrant population hit another milestone, with 45 million individuals in the U.S. The Center for Immigration Studies reported that the Department of Homeland Security estimated the total number of immigrants in 2017 to be 46.4 million, with a margin for unreported residents. Immigrants accounted for nearly 14% of the population in 2017, the highest since 1910.

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