A detailed look at immigration in the U.S. from the colonial period to the present
Should all of the 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. be given a chance to become U.S. citizens?
The U.S. is a nation of immigrants. The first wave of immigrants to colonial America, from England, France, Germany, and other northern European countries, were fleeing political and religious intolerance as well as seeking financial opportunities in the young country. Even then, the new arrivals faced open hostility and distrust from the populace. Regardless of the less than warm welcome, hopeful immigrants poured into the U.S. In fact, some 30 million immigrants entered the U.S. between 1870 and 1930.
As the U.S. sought to expand both geographically and economically in the early 19th century through the first decades of the 20th century, government officials and business leaders recognized that immigrants could fill the need for cheap labor and encouraged the flow of workers to the U.S. Between 1820 and 1930, the U.S. absorbed about 60% of the world’s immigrants. The U.S. didn’t begin to restrict its borders to immigrants until 1875, when it shunned “undesirables” and Chinese laborers. The 1875 policy was the first of many attempts to limit the number of immigrants entering the U.S. Most policies and attempts at enforcement have failed. Indeed, according to 2010 census figures, more than 11 million people live in the U.S. illegally.
This primer on immigration details milestones in immigration and the many laws passed related to immigration, lists dozens of facts and statistics about immigrants and immigration, outlines the process involved in obtaining a Green Card, and more.
Biographies, History, and Timelines
- Timeline of Immigration Legislation in the U.S.
A detailed look at immigration legislation from the Colonial Period to the present
- Immigration Milestones
Important milestones in U.S. immigration history
- Biographies of Notable Immigrants
Read about famous people who have made America their home
- The Green Card
The "Green Card" was not always green. Read about how the card has changed and the process of obtaining one.
Facts and Statistics
- U.S. Immigration by the Numbers
More than 757,000 people became naturalized citizens in 2012. Find other statistics about immigration
- Immigrants in the U.S.: Facts about Population, the Labor Force, and Deportation
Learn how many immigrants reside in the U.S., the number of immigrants employed and deported each year, and more
- Foreign-Born Population in the United States by State
More than 25% of all the immigrants in the U.S. live in California
- The Foreign-Born Population in the United States
More immigrants arrived from Mexico than any other country
- More Facts and Statistics about Immigrants and Immigration
Find data about where immigrants arrive from, employment, and more