The Department of Homeland Security issued an immigration report last week covering fiscal year 2009, which saw exactly 1,130,818 non-nationals become legal permanent residents (LPRs), or green card holders.

How many of those people were natives of Ireland? Only 1,637, which represents one of the lowest totals of the more than 200 countries represented in the statistics.

If the Irish influence and prevalence in the U.S. starts to wane in the years and decades to come, there’s the reason why – getting a foot into the legal U.S. immigration system is next to impossible because of how the law favors those with existing close family ties here.

Ireland’s numbers for the previous four years prior to 2009 dropped from a high in 2005, when 2,088 Irish citizens became green card holders. In 2006 that number fell slightly to 1,906, with a further drop to 1,503 in 2007, and only 1,465 in 2008.

Of the 1,130,818 LPRs for 2009, 747,413 earned their green cards based on a family relationship to a U.S. citizen or an existing permanent resident. Exactly 317,129 of these family-based green cards were issued to spouses of U.S. citizens.

In 2009 the U.S. issued 144,034 green cards to foreign workers, and 47,879 green cards through the annual diversity visa lottery.

The number of legal immigrants coming to the U.S. had held pretty steady for the past three years. In 2008 the final figure was 1,107,126, and in 2007 it was 1,052,415.

“The annual LPR flow has exhibited an upward trend since World War II,” says the Homeland Security report.

“The average annual LPR flow increased from 250,000 during the 1950s to 1 million between 2000 and 2009. Changes in immigration law associated with this increase included the elimination of country quotas controlling Eastern Hemisphere immigration; increases in annual limits for hemispheric and preference immigration; and the inclusion of parents of adult U.S. citizens as numerically exempt immediate relatives.”

Where did all the new LPRs come from in 2009? Mexico led the way with 164,920 of its citizens, followed by China, a distant second at 64,238, and the Philippines, with 60,029. Other notables include Cuba (38,954), Haiti (24,280), Pakistan (21,555), Iran (18,553), Canada (16,410) and the United Kingdom (15,748).

The “all other countries” classification was responsible for 410,726 LPRs, of which Ireland would be a part. Joining Ireland near the bottom of the totem pole are countries such as Hungary (1,314), Macedonia (1,128), the Netherlands (1,499) and Saudi Arabia (1,418).

One-fifth of the 2009 green card holders set up residence in California, with New York coming in second at 13%, and Florida following with 11%.
“LPRs have historically been younger than the native population of the U.S. In 2009, the median age for persons becoming LPRs was 31 years; in contrast, the median age of the U.S. native population was 35 years,” says the Homeland Security report.

“New LPRs are more likely to be female than the native U.S. population. In 2009, females accounted for 55% of new LPRs compared with 51% for the U.S. native population. The majority (58%) of new LPRs were married compared with 39% percent of the native population.”

The report is an interesting read for sure. If you’d like to check it out click here.