Migration data in Northern America

Last updated on

Northern America1 has historically been one of the principal destination regions of international migrants worldwide. According to statistics published by the United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United States has long been the top country of destination in the world, with a total stock of over 50 million international migrants as of 2020 (UNDESA, 2021).

Northern America is also a prominent destination region for refugees and asylum seekers. In recent years, inflows of Venezuelan refugees and migrants to the region have added to complex mixed flows of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees arriving from Nicaragua and countries of Northern Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) in particular.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the region has witnessed drastic changes in mobility and migration patterns beginning in 2020, partly due to various restrictions implemented by countries in the region to contain the spread of the virus. Some of these measures, among others, have included interruptions to the issuance of visas and residence permits, border closures, health and sanitation requirements as well as temporary entry restrictions for certain nationalities (IOM, 2021).

The year 2020 also saw significant displacement events in the region due to disasters. The United States registered historic levels of new displacements mainly due to heavy rains and flooding, while both the United States and Canada registered significant numbers of new internal displacements because of wildfires. Altogether, more than 1.7 million new internal displacements due to disaster were registered in both countries in 2020 (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), 2021).

The region has demonstrated strong capacities in the collection, analysis and dissemination of migration data and information. Both countries have specialized governmental authorities who regulate the entry and stay of foreigners in their territories and who collect a wide array of administrative and other data on migrant populations. National statistics and census offices in both countries collect a depth of data and information on migrant populations through population censuses and other demographic and thematic household surveys. Northern America also benefits from the presence of a wide array of research and academic institutions that collect and publish data, analyses and studies on migration dynamics to, within and out of the region (Migration Policy Institute (MPI), 2020).