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Maps: How Immigration To The U.S. Has Changed Since 1850

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While the leading group immigrating to California and pretty much the rest of the country comes from Mexico right now, a newly released map shows how immigration patterns were a lot different over 160 years ago.


The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan thinktank, created a fascinating interactive map that shows the different shifts in immigration patterns, revealing which were the top countries immigrants were coming from when they moved to the U.S. from 1850 to 2013. What's most interesting is these trends show how historical events brought about these patterns.

At the start of the map, the first major immigrant group to come to California were Mexicans, and then in the 1860s and 1880s they were the Chinese. CityLab points out that the Chinese immigrants dropped off after 1880s because of U.S.'s 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering the country to work, the first law of its kind to prevent a group from entering the U.S. We also had immigrants come from Ireland, Germany and Italy before Mexicans became the dominant immigrant group from the 1930s onward. CityLab credits the Irish potato famine of the 1840s and 1850s, and the German crop failures for the spike in European immigration to the U.S.

Pew's map is part of their larger look at the past, present and future of immigration. They credit a dramatic shift in immigration to the U.S. passing the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which emphasized handing out more visas to family members and relatives, and for employment.

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According to Pew, "Immigration since 1965 has swelled the nation’s foreign-born population from 9.6 million then to a record 45 million in 2015."

As for what the future holds, Pew estimates that by 2065, the U.S. will have a whopping 78 million immigrants.