Immigration in the United States
Between 1820 and 2000, the US has admitted almost twice as many immigrants and refugees as all other countries combined.
However, the number of legal immigrants has varied during different periods because of changes in immigration laws and rates of economic growth.
Graphic: Legal immigration to the US, 1820-2000.
In 2000, the US received about 850,000 legal immigrants and refugees, and 300,000 illegal immigrants, together accounting for 40% of the country's population growth.
The US Census Bureau estimates 8-11 million illegal immigrants currently live in the US.
Currently, more than 75% of all legal immigrants live in six states:
If illegal immigrants are included, this figure rises to 90%.
Immigrants place a tax burden on residents of such states.
In California, for example, the average household pays an extra $1,200 in taxes per year because of immigrants.
However, according to a 1997 study by the National Academy of Sciences,
the work and taxes paid by immigrants add $1-10 billion per year to the overall US economy, largely because immigration holds down wages (and thus prices) for some jobs.
during their lifetimes immigrants pay an average of $80,000 more per person in taxes than they cost in services.
Between 1820 and 1960, most legal immigrants to the US came from Europe; since then most have come from Latin America (53%) and Asia (30%).
Between 2002 and 2050, the percentage of Latinos in the US population is projected to double from 13% to 24%.
In 1995, the US Commission on Immigration Reform recommended reducing the number of legal immigrants and refugees to about 700,000 per year for a transition period and then to 550,000 per year.
Some population geographers, demographers and environmentalists go further and call for
lowering the annual ceiling for legal immigrants and refugees into the US to 300,000-450,000
limiting legal immigration to about 20% of annual population growth
They would accept immigrants only if they can support themselves, arguing that providing immigrants with public services turns the US into a magnet for the world's poor.
Most of these analysts also support efforts to sharply reduce illegal immigration.
However, some are concerned that a crackdown on illegal immigrants can also lead to discrimination against legal immigrants.
The public strongly supports reducing US immigration levels.
Proponents argue that reducing immigration would allow the US to stabilize its population sooner and help reduce the country's enormous environmental impact.
Others oppose reducing current levels of legal immigration, arguing that
it would diminish the historic role of the US as a place of opportunity for the world's poor and oppressed
immigrants pay taxes and take many menial, low-paying jobs that other Americans shun
few immigrants receive public assistance
many immigrants open businesses and create jobs
according to the US Census Bureau, after 2020 higher immigration levels will be needed to supply enough workers as baby boomers retire.