In the United States, the federal government maintains primary authority over immigrants' admission into and removal from the country. Historically, the states have been largely responsible for the practical aspects of absorbing and integrating immigrants into their communities. But the relationship between the federal government and the states with respect to immigration has become more collaborative, and the states are playing a more active role in creating policies. These developments have resulted in new cooperation and conflicts between the levels of government.
This dynamic coincides with changes in the size and distribution of the nation's foreign-born population over the past three decades. Before 1990, immigrants were largely concentrated in a few states, but today, significant numbers live in all 50 states. This interactive tool illustrates the growth of the foreign-born population in the states from 1980 to 2012 and provides a snapshot of key immigration-related activities at the federal and state levels.
This analysis is not comprehensive, however. It does not include all immigration laws, policies, and other factors that have shaped the relationship between the federal government and the states and does not draw or imply conclusions about causal relationships between population change and federal, state, and local activities. It is intended only to provide historical context for today's discussions on immigration and the states.