This essay provides an overview of immigration from Latin America since 1960, focusing on changes in both the size and composition of the dominant streams and their cumulative impact on the U.S. foreign-born population. We briefly describe the deep historical roots of current migration streams and the policy backdrop against which migration from the region surged. Distinguishing among the three major pathways to U.S. residence – family sponsorship, asylum, and unauthorized entry – we explain how contemporary flows are related both to economic crises, political conflicts, and humanitarian incidents in sending countries, but especially to idiosyncratic application of existing laws over time. The concluding section highlights the importance of investing in the children of immigrants to meet the future labor needs of an aging nation.

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