Immigration has helped define the United States like no other country. A flood of foreigners in the 1800s help populate the nation, sparking a sharp xenophobic response from so-called “native Americans.” Today, immigration remains a hotly contested issue in the U.S., but how do immigration trends today compare to those in the past? The New York Times has another excellent map, this time charting immigration trends across the nation since 1890. Eastern cities—especially New York and Chicago—and even entire regions are perennial hotbeds of new settlement. The Southwest, for example, has had high Latin American immigrant populations as long as records have been kept (except for the 1930s, when it appears the Great Depression tarnished the nation’s allure). Other areas like Los Angeles and Miami have become more attractive to immigrants within the past few decades.
The United States legally allows around one million people to become permanent citizens each year (see the Congressional Budget Office report (pdf) for details). Estimates of the total number of illegal immigrants varies widely—anywhere from 7 to 20 million—but a CBO report citing other studies puts the number closer to 11 million (around 3-4 percent of the total population).
While the who and where has changed, immigration still shapes the face of the nation.