Over the past 20 years, the flow and demographic profile of immigrants entering the United States has changed dramatically. Despite new trends and characteristics, much of the debate on immigration—both in the public and among many policymakers—remains outdated and often stuck on the issues and conditions of the 1990s, not 2017. Much of the public believes that illegal immigration continues at high rates and mostly through the southwest border, that most new immigrants come from Mexico, and that immigrants are mostly uneducated. Each of these may have been closer to the truth in the 1990s, but recent trends are decidedly different. Proposals like the construction of a physical border wall are reflective of an outdated understanding of immigration flows, in which most unauthorized immigration flows across the border from Mexico. Yet border crossings are at their lowest levels in decades, and current research estimates more unauthorized immigration is caused by visa overstays than illegal entry.
This issue brief explores the changes over the last 25 years in key demographic categories of immigration, along with trends in unauthorized immigration and border activity, and how they compare with the current immigration debate.
Total Immigrant Population
Regions of Origin
In addition, because of declining rates of new immigration from Mexico and increases in Asian migration, today there are more Asians than Mexicans living in the United States.