Immigration to the U.S. Dropped an Insane 92%

Immigration to the U.S. Dropped an Insane 92%

Originally Published in The National Interest

David J. Bier - October 18, 2020

Overall, the second half of FY 2020 saw 92 percent fewer immigrants from abroad than the first half, which was larger than any annual decline in the history of the United States.

The United States has welcomed more than 85 million legal immigrants to the United States since its founding. But at no time since it has maintained records has the country witnessed as fast a decline in legal immigration as it has seen in the second half of fiscal year 2020 (which finished September 30). Overall, the second half of FY 2020 saw 92 percent fewer immigrants from abroad than the first half, which was larger than any annual decline in the history of the United States.

Figure 1 shows the monthly immigrant visa issuances under the Trump administration since March 2017. As it shows, legal immigration almost wholly stopped in April and May 2020—after the State Department closed its consulates and President Trump issued a proclamation suspending new visa issuances to most immigrant categories. It has recovered slightly since then, but it remains 84 percent below last year (which was also a down year).

Figure 2 shows the number of new arrivals of legal permanent residents or immigrant visas approved by year from 1820 to 2020, with the third and fourth quarter of FY 2020 added. The United States witnessed a more than 90 percent falloff in new immigration from abroad during the second half of FY 2020. This brings the annualized legal immigration rate from abroad to 0.03 percent of the U.S. population. This is the lowest rate of immigration except for three years during World War II and one year during the Great Depression.

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