Be aware: Immigration totals are sure to look like high mountains and relatively low valleys in the next few years.
As the figure shows, the total number of legal immigrants to the U.S. has varied from a low of 23,068 in 1933 (the depth of the Great Depression) to a recent high of 1,826,595 in 1991, when most of the IRCA legalization cases were counted as immigrants. Other valleys included 110,618 in 1918 during WWI, and 23,725 in 1943, during WWII, with German submarines discouraging sea travel in both periods. In the first half of the 20th century most migration was by sea, and most came across the Atlantic from Europe.
U.S. Immigration, FY 1913 to FY 2019
Source: Table 1, 2019 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics
We are about to see a fall-off of legal immigrants when the FY 2020 data are released, when I expect the figure to be in the 750,000 to 800,000 range; I suspect that the level for the year we are in (FY 2021) will be about the same, with Covid-19 playing the role of the German subs.
The virus-caused fall-off would have been even more dramatic had Covid-19, now a year old, coincided with the fiscal year, rather than overlapping it. The virus-impacting period started in about March 2020, and may start to end later this spring, co-existing with the Biden border crisis. U.S. fiscal years start on October 1 and end on September 30.
Should a general amnesty take place, or should there be smaller, multi-million programs, the new highs would dwarf our little chart.
The author is grateful to Rodney North for creating the figure.