South American Immigrants in the United States

Jie Zong & Jeanne Batalova
Date of Publication: 
November, 2018
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

Immigrants from South America remain a small share of the U.S. foreign-born population, but with a noticeable uptick in arrivals in recent years from deeply troubled Venezuela. The number of Venezuelan immigrants in the United States rose from 216,000 in 2014 to 351,000 in 2017, with a growth of 61,000 in one year alone, from 2016 to 2017.

Still, the United States is not the primary destination for Venezuelans leaving an increasingly failing state, with most of the members of Latin America’s largest exodus (at least 2 million people since 2015) fleeing to locations elsewhere in the region, in particular Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina.

Overall, South American immigrants represented 7 percent (or 3.2 million) of the 44.5 million foreign born in the United States in 2017—up from 1 percent in 1960. While their numbers have increased, South Americans remain well behind the rest of Latin America, with significantly larger immigrant populations in the United States from Mexico and Central America.

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Zong, J. & Batalova, J. (2018). South American Immigrants in the United States. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Available at