Watch How Immigration In America Has Changed Since 1820

The idea of banning an entire racial or ethnic group from entering the US isn’t a new proposal. Donald Trump is far from the first person to propose it. In fact, this country has a long history of picking and choosing whom it lets into its borders — and whom it doesn’t.

In 1790, the US banned nonwhite people from naturalizing as citizens. In 1798, the US authorized the president to detain or deport noncitizens who were considered “dangerous to the peace and safety” of the country. Fast forward 80 years, and the US started banning all Chinese laborers from immigrating to the country. Tilted quota systems and systematically biased policies shaped the kind of people who could come the country. It wasn’t until the past 60 years — when racial quotas were repealed — that immigrant demographics showed any semblance of diversity.

The graphic above shows how these policies affect who enters the country. It shows 200 years of legal immigration into the United States — and how different policies and international dynamics affect the patterns of who gets let in. Migration into the United States has ebbed and flowed in tandem with who policymakers believe ought to be allowed refuge and who doesn’t qualify.

And we’re back again to talking about restricting entire immigrant groups from coming to the US. But we ought to do it with some idea of how this country has done so before.

200 years of immigration also show how today’s population came to be

But this isn’t just a story about immigration. It also shows how today’s US population came to be.

In 1820, where the graphic starts, there were only about 9.7 million people in the United States, which is about the current population of Sweden. So as the graphic shows 80 million people flowing in from other countries over the past 200 years, it also shows the making of the US as we know it today. (Note: A reader pointed out that country-by-country data before 1910 is notoriously unreliable, although general trends hold true.)

By Alvin Chang for Vox
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