Posted on October 21, 2020

No Year Has Seen Legal Immigration Cut Like the 2nd Half of FY 2020

David J. Bier, Cato Institute, October 13, 2020

The United States has welcomed more than 85 million legal immigrants to the United States since its founding. But at no time since it has maintained records has the country witnessed as fast a decline in legal immigration as it has seen in the second half of fiscal year 2020 (which finished September 30). Overall, the second half of FY 2020 saw 92 percent fewer immigrants from abroad than the first half, which was larger than any annual decline in the history of the United States.

{snip} As it shows, legal immigration almost wholly stopped in April and May 2020—after the State Department closed its consulates and President Trump issued a proclamation suspending new visa issuances to most immigrant categories. It has recovered slightly since then, but it remains 84 percent below last year (which was also a down year).

{snip}The United States witnessed a more than 90 percent falloff in new immigration from abroad during the second half of FY 2020. This brings the annualized legal immigration rate from abroad to 0.03 percent of the U.S. population. This is the lowest rate of immigration except for three years during World War II and one year during the Great Depression.

The 92 percent drop in the second half of FY 2020 is larger than the drop during any single year in American history—larger than the 73 percent decline in 1915 coinciding with the start of World War I, larger than the 70 percent decline in 1925 coinciding with Congress closing legal immigration from Europe, larger than the 63 percent declines in 1931, 1942, and 1918 following the onset of the Great Depression and U.S. entries into each world war. {snip}