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President Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen — is big news right now. And its effects are being felt widely throughout the worlds of science and medicine.

Observing the fervid debate as someone who has recently had firsthand experience with the immigration system, I was interested in seeing as much of the larger immigration trends as government data permitted.


In the interactive data visualization below, each country or region of last residence is represented by color, in a stream whose thickness represents the number of people arriving from that area in a given year.

Immediately, two things stand out: boom and bust in the immigration rate (it’s easy to assume that it has always been increasing) and the new diversity of immigrants after World War II.

Immigration collapsed after the 1924 Immigration Act, which restricted entrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, severely limited African immigration, and prohibited it from East Asia, India, and the Arab world.


The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which removed national origins quotas imposed by the 1924 act, led to the diversity of the immigrant population that we see to this day. That diversity is reflected in the data visualization in the flowering of a completely new range of colors directly after the act was passed.

Regardless of the political moves ahead, nearly 200 years of immigration suggests that no one leader or piece of legislation is capable of staunching the diverse flow of immigrants to the US.

200 Years of Immigration to the US

The x axis displays years, the y axis displays the number of immigrants (in millions), and each country or region of last residence is represented by its own color and stream whose thickness represents the number of people from that area becoming legal permanent residents in a given year.

Talia Bronshtein/STAT Source: Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2015