With unemployment figures hovering at near double-digit levels over the last three years, does the U.S. still hold the promise that has historically attracted more immigrants than any other country? While the U.S. accepted nearly twice the number of immigrants in 2009 vs. the next highest-accepting country according to the Office for Economic Co-Operation and Development, grants for permanent resident status have slowed as noted by Figure 1.
The figures were bucketed into three-year increments to account for annual fluctuations and to better distinguish the recent economic slowdown vs. prior periods. Without applicant data, it’s hard to say whether potential applicants are solely being deterred by a tougher U.S. economic climate. Yet, some of the more striking trends are a 29% reduction in the number immigrants from European countries and a 17% reduction in the number of immigrants from South American countries. The 5% overall reduction was the largest three-year period of decline since the mid-90s.
The most notable declines have been from Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The primary cause of the Polish immigration decline has been the boom in the Polish economy since its entrance into the European Union in 2004 – reducing the appeal to immigrate. The decline from Bosnia-Herzegovina is likely attributable to a factor of time and shifting trends from the U.S. policy of providing admissions to people from countries with low historical admissions rates. With regard to time, large numbers of Bosnians immigrated to the U.S. during the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995. In the subsequent years, close relatives followed suit, which over time reduces the pool of family-based immigrants.
Despite the overall decline, people from certain countries have still shown some increasing trends in immigrating to the U.S.
The largest increases in immigrants have come from Burma and Iraq. In both cases, citizens of those countries sought to escape unstable security and government situations. The situation was even more acute to the Burmese as they struggled to recoup from the deadly 2009 cyclone.
While recent immigration trends have slowed, the U.S. still remains a prime destination for many people, especially those escaping difficult situations in their own country.