In his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump made big promises on immigration. From building a Mexico-funded wall along the US southern border to banning refugees, reducing the number of foreigners entering the US was at the center of his agenda.
Nearly four years since his election, the changes in US immigration policy have been significant. But while actions against asylum seekers coming from the southern borders—many of which constituted outright violations of human rights—received the most attention, the administration put up quite a few obstacles for legal immigrants, too.
The number of undocumented immigrants in the country continued to decline during the Trump administration, as it had had done during Barack Obama’s presidency. For legal immigration, the trend has changed.
Between 2016 and 2019, the number of immigrants who became US permanent residents declined 13%—from over 1.18 million to 1.03 million. The biggest reductions were felt by Asian countries, where immigration fell 21% (from about 450,000 a year to about 350,000) while immigration from Central and South America increased 14% (from about 77,000 to more than 88,000).
Among the communities with the biggest immigration declines were the countries covered by the travel ban imposed on several Muslim-majority countries. Yemen was especially penalized—it sent 71% fewer immigrants in 2019 than in 2016.
Many of the countries with the most biggest drops in immigration are those with the largest immigrant populations in the US, including China, India, and Haiti.
Only a handful of countries that send sizable numbers of immigration to the US (5,000 or more immigrant per year) have seen increase in immigration volumes—notably, Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, which are also the countries of origin of many asylum seekers apprehended at the southern border.
Overall, the biggest increase in immigration was from the Democratic Republic of the Congo: In 2016, 7,700 immigrants came from the country. In 2019, there were nearly 13,800.
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