The United States has been the top destination for international migrants since at least 1960, with one-fifth of the world's migrants living there as of 2017. Despite its long history of immigration, the United States has oscillated between perceiving immigration as a valuable resource and as a major challenge. The 2016 election and significant actions on immigration taken by the Trump administration have further raised the issue in political and public debates. Even more than before, immigration is closely tied to discussions about the U.S. economy and global competitiveness, national security, and the country’s role in humanitarian protection at a time of record global displacement.
Amid these conversations, informed public discussion and evidence-based policymaking require authoritative, unbiased, and timely information. This Spotlight offers in one accessible resource the most current data available about the nearly 44 million immigrants living in the United States in 2016. By compiling some of the most frequently requested facts and figures, this article provides answers to questions such as: How many people have immigrated to the United States, and through which channels? How many entered as refugees, and from which countries? Is Mexico still the top country of origin? Has the number of unauthorized immigrants changed in recent years? What jobs do immigrants tend to hold in the U.S. labor market? And how many U.S. residents are either immigrants or children of immigrants?