AskDefine | Define immigrants

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  1. Plural of immigrant

Extensive Definition

Immigration refers to the movement of people between countries. While the movement of people has existed throughout human history at various levels, modern immigration implies long-term, legal, permanent residence. Short-term visitors and tourists are considered non-immigrants (see expatriate). Immigration across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country is termed illegal immigration. Under this definition, an illegal immigrant is a foreigner who either illegally crossed an international political border, be it by land, water, or air, or a foreigner who legally entered a country but nevertheless overstays his/her visa in order to live and/or work therein. Seasonal labour migration, while generally non-permanent in nature (typically for periods of less than a year), is often treated as a form of immigration.
The modern concept of immigration is related to the development of nation-states and nationality law. Citizenship in a nation-state confers an inalienable right of residence in that state, but residency of non-citizens is subject to conditions set by immigration law. The emergence of nation-states made immigration a political issue: by definition it is the homeland of a nation defined by shared ethnicity and/or culture.
The global volume of immigration is high in absolute terms, but low in relative terms. The International Integration and Refugee Association estimated 190 million international migrants in 2005, about 3 percent of global population. The other 97 percent still live in the country in which they were born. The Middle East, some parts of Europe, small areas of South East Asia, and a few spots in the West Indies have the highest numbers of immigration population recorded by the UN Census 2005.

Global statistics

The European Union allows free travel between member states with the appropriate papers. Most immigrants are from former eastern bloc states to the developed western European states, especially to Italy, Spain, Germany and Britain. Noticeably, some countries seemed to be favoured by these new EU member nationals than others. For example, there are large numbers of Poles who have moved to the UK, Ireland and Netherlands, while Romanians have chosen Italy and Spain. While France and Germany put in place controls to curb Eastern European migration, the UK (along with Ireland) did not impose restrictions.
Following Poland's entry into the EU in May 2004 it is estimated that by the start of 2007 375,000 Poles have registered to work in the UK, although the total Polish population in the UK is believed to be 750,000. Many Poles work in seasonal occupations and a large number are likely to move back and forth including between Ireland and other EU Western nations.
According to Eurostat, Some EU member states are currently receiving large-scale immigration: for instance Spain, where the economy has created more than half of all the new jobs in the EU over the past five years. The EU, in 2005, had an overall net gain from international migration of +1.8 million people. This accounts for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth in 2005. In 2004, total 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe. In 2005, immigration fell slightly to 135,890. In recent years, immigration has accounted for more than half of Norway's population growth. In 2006, Statistics Norway's (SSB) counted a record 45,800 immigrants arriving in Norway — 30% higher than 2005. At the beginning of 2007, there were 415,300 persons in Norway with an immigrant background (i.e. immigrants, or born of immigrant parents), comprising 8.3 per cent of the total population.
Canada has the highest per capita net immigration rate in the world, driven by economic policy and family reunification. In 2001, 250,640 people immigrated to Canada. Newcomers settle mostly in the major urban areas of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. By the 1990s and 2000s, a majority of Canada's immigrants came from Asia. Canadian society is often depicted as being a very progressive, diverse, and multicultural. Accusing a person of racism in Canada is usually considered a serious slur. All political parties are now cautious about criticising of the high level of immigration, because, as noted by the Globe and Mail, "in the early 1990s, the old Reform Party was branded 'racist' for suggesting that immigration levels be lowered from 250,000 to 150,000."
Japan accepted just 16 refugees in 1999, while the United States took in 85,010 for resettlement, according to the UNHCR. New Zealand, which is smaller than Japan, accepted 1,140 refugees in 1999. Just 305 persons were recognized as refugees by Japan from 1981, when Japan ratified the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to 2002. Japanese Minister Taro Aso has called Japan a "one race" nation.
In 2004 the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795 - a rise of 12% on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Africa (32%) and Asia (40%), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia. In 2005, an estimated 565,000 migrants arrived to live in the UK for at least a year, most of the migrants were people from Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa, while 380,000 people emigrated from the UK for a year or more, with Australia, Spain and France most popular destinations.
British emigration towards Southern Europe is of special relevance. Citizens from the European Union make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Spain. They mainly come from countries like the UK and Germany, but the British case is of special interest due to its magnitude. The British authorities estimate that the British population in Spain at 700,000. Spain is the most favoured destination for Britons leaving the UK. Since 2000, Spain has absorbed more than three million immigrants, growing its population by almost 10%. Immigrant population now tops over 4.5 million. According to residence permit data for 2005, about 500,000 were Moroccan, another 500,000 were Ecuadorian, more than 200,000 were Romanian, and 260,000 were Colombian. In 2005 alone, a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people.
Portugal, long a country of emigration, has now become a country of net immigration, and not just from the former colonies; by the end of 2003, legal immigrants represented about 4% of the population, and the largest communities were from Cape Verde, Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, UK, Spain and Ukraine.
The overall level of immigration to Australia has grown substantially during the last decade. Net overseas migration increased from 30,000 in 1993 to 118,000 in 2003-04. The largest components of immigration are the skilled migration and family re-union programs. In recent years the mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals by boat has generated great levels of controversy. During the 2004-05, total 123,424 people immigrated to Australia. Of them, 17,736 were from Africa, 54,804 from Asia, 21,131 from Oceania, 18,220 from United Kingdom, 1,506 from South America, and 2,369 from Eastern Europe. 131,000 people migrated to Australia in 2005-06 and migration target for 2006-07 was 144,000.
New Zealand has relatively open immigration policies. 23% of the population was born overseas, mainly in Asia, Oceania, and UK, one of the highest rates in the world. In 2004-2005, a target of 45,000 immigrants was set by the New Zealand immigration Service and represented 1.5% of the total population. According to the 2001 census projections, by 2050 57% of all New Zealand children will have Maori or Pacific ancestry, while 68% will be non-European.

Immigration by continent

Immigration to the United States

The U.S. has often been called the "melting pot". The name is delivered from United States' rich tradition of immigrants coming to the US looking for something better and having their cultures melded and incorporated into the fabric of the country. Most of them did not possess wealth or power in their home countries. Most were not highly educated. Other than these few commonalities of what they didn't possess, their backgrounds were vastly different. The thread, however, that bound these immigrants together was their vision of improving their current situation. Emma Lazarus, in a poem entitled "The New Colossus," which is inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty tells of the invitation extended to those wanting to make the US their home. "… Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…" (Encyclopedia Americana, 1998, Vol. 25, 637)
While recent immigration patterns have changed; the reasons have not. Individuals and families still come to the United States with a vision of improving their lives. The backgrounds of today's immigrants expanded beyond the European Borders. Today they come from all over the world. At a 1984 oath-taking ceremony in Los Angeles, there were nearly a thousand individuals from the Philippines, 890 from Mexico, 704 from Vietnam, 110 from Lebanon, 126 from the United Kingdom, and 62 from Israel. Although not as large a number, there were also individuals from Lithuania, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. (Luedtke, 1992, 3)
After 2000, legal immigrants to the United States numbered approximately 1,000,000 per year. In 2006, 1.27 million immigrants were granted legal residence. Mexico has been the leading source of new U.S. residents for over two decades; and since 1998, China, India and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year.
By one account, the number of legal immigrants entering the U.S. annually was estimated at 500,000 to 600,000 in 1989. This subsequently increased and is now well over 1 million annually, not including illegal migration or temporary work visas. Net illegal immigration also soared from about 130,000 per year in the 1970s to as high as 1,500,000 per year in 2006. Bureau figures show the U.S. population grew by 2.8 million between July 1, 2004, and July 1, 2005. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 45% of children under age 5 are from a racial or ethnic minority.
Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980. Of the top ten countries accepting resettled refugees in 2006, the United States accepted more than twice as much as the next nine countries combined, although some smaller countries accept more refugees per capita.
Twenty cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Seattle and Portland, have adopted "sanctuary" ordinances banning police from asking people about their immigration status. If current birth and immigration rates were to remain unchanged for another 60 to 70 years, US population would double to some 600 million people. The actual number of admitted refugees rose in subsequent years with ceiling for 2006 at 70,000. A May 25, 2007 article notes that in the past seven months only 69 people from Iraq have been granted refugee status in the United States.


Theories of immigration traditionally distinguish between push factors and pull factors. Push factors refer primarily to the motive for emigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labour migration), differentials in wage rates are prominent. Poor individuals from less developed countries can have far higher standards of living in developed countries than in their originating countries. Escape from poverty (personal or for relatives staying behind) is a traditional push factor, the availability of jobs is the related pull factor. Natural disasters and overpopulation can amplify poverty-driven migration flows. This kind of migration may be illegal immigration in the destination country (emigration is also illegal in some countries, such as North Korea).
Emigration and immigration are sometimes mandatory in a contract of employment: religious missionaries, and employees of transnational corporations, international non-governmental organisations and the diplomatic service can expect to work 'overseas'. They are often referred to as 'expatriates', and their conditions of employment are typically equal to or better than those applying in the host country (for similar work).
For some migrants, education is the primary pull factor (although most international students are not classified as immigrants, but may choose to do so if they refuse to return). Retirement migration from rich countries to lower-cost countries with better climate, is a new type of international migration. Examples include immigration of retired British citizens to Spain or Italy and of retired Canadian citizens to the U.S. (mainly to the state of Florida).
Some, although relatively few, immigrants justify their drive to be in a different country for cultural or health related reasons and very seldom, again in relative quantitative terms compared to the actual number of international migrants world-wide, choose to migrate as a form of self-expression towards the establishment or to satisfy their need to directly perceive other cultural environments because economics is almost always the primary motivator for constant, long-term, or permanent migration, but especially for that type of inter-regional or inter-continental migration; that holds true even for people from developed countries.
Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing and even genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows - to escape dictatorship for instance.
Some migration is for personal reasons, based on a relationship (e.g. to be with family or a partner), such as in family reunification or transnational marriage. In a few cases, an individual may wish to emigrate to a new country in a form of transferred patriotism. Evasion of criminal justice (e.g. avoiding arrest) is a (mostly negative) personal motivation. This type of emigration and immigration is not normally legal, if a crime is internationally recognized, although criminals may disguise their identities or find other loopholes to evade detection. There have been cases, for example, of those who might be guilty of war crimes disguising themselves as victims of war or conflict and then pursuing asylum in a different country.
Barriers to immigration come not only in legal form; natural barriers to immigration can also be very powerful. Immigrants when leaving their country also leave everything familiar: their family, friends, support network, and culture. They also need to liquidate their assets often at a large loss, and incur the expense of moving. When they arrive in a new country this is often with many uncertainties including finding work, where to live, new laws, new cultural norms, language or accent issues, possible racism and other exclusionary behaviour towards them and their family. These barriers act to limit international migration (scenarios where populations move en masse to other continents, creating huge population surges, and their associated strain on infrastructure and services, ignore these inherent limits on migration.)

Differing perspectives

Immigration is often highly politicized, and in some countries, a major political issue.

Supporting arguments

General arguments

The main arguments cited in support of immigration are economic arguments, such as a free labor market, and cultural arguments appealing to the value of cultural diversity. Some groups also support immigration as a device to boost small population numbers, like in New Zealand and Canada, or, like in Europe, to reverse demographic aging trends.
Support for fully open borders is limited to a minority. Some free-market libertarians believe that a free global labour market with no restrictions on immigration would, in the long run, boost global prosperity. There are also groups which oppose border controls on ideological grounds - believing that people from poor countries should be allowed to enter rich countries, to benefit from their higher standards of living. Others are advocates of world government and wish to eliminate or severely limit the power of nation-states. This includes the nation-state's ability to grant and deny individuals entry across borders, which advocates of world government generally view as arbitrary and unfair distinctions made on what should be one planet earth, thus eliminating diversity and competition among states.

Economic arguments

Countries like New Zealand, which has experimented with both qualifications- and job-offer-based entry systems, have reported that under the latter system (where much weight is put on the immigrant already having a job offer), the immigrants actually show a much lower uptake of government benefits than the normal population. Under a mostly qualification-based system, many highly trained doctors and engineers had instead been reduced to driving taxis. However, the host nation often get more professionals without losing the cost of training or educating these professionals. According to the Global Health Workforce Alliance, one in four doctors trained in sub-Saharan Africa works in a developing country. A usual example of this case is the fact that there are more Ethiopian doctors on the east coast of America than there are in Ethiopia.

Opposing arguments

The main anti-immigration themes include costs of migrants (potential free-riding on existing welfare systems), labor competition; environmental issues (the impact of population growth); national security (concerns of insular immigrant groups & terrorism against the host country) and growing crime; lack of coordination & cooperation among citizens (differences of language, conventions, culture); and the loss of national identity and culture (including the nature of the nation-state itself).

Health arguments

Immigration from areas of high incidence is thought to have fueled the resurgence of tuberculosis (TB), chagas, hepatitis, and leprosy in areas of low incidence. To reduce the risk of diseases in low-incidence areas, the main countermeasure has been the screening of immigrants on arrival. According to CDC, TB cases among foreign-born individuals remain disproportionately high, at nearly nine times the rate of U.S.-born persons. In 2003, nearly 26 percent of foreign-born TB patients in the United States were from Mexico. Another third of the foreign-born cases were among those from the Philippines, Vietnam, India and China, the CDC report said.
The history of HIV/AIDS in the United States began in about 1969, when HIV likely entered the United States through a single infected immigrant from Haiti.

Economic arguments

Economic needs-driven immigration is opposed by labor-market protectionists, often arguing from economic nationalism. The core of their arguments is that a nation's jobs are the 'property' of that nation, and that allowing foreigners to take them is equivalent to a loss of that property. They may also criticise immigration of this type as a form of corporate welfare, where business is indirectly subsidised by government expenditure to promote the immigration and the assimilation of the immigrants. A more common criticism is that the immigrant employees are almost always paid less than a non-immigrant worker in the same job, and that the migration depresses wages, especially as migrants are usually not unionised. Other groups feel that the focus should be not on migration control, but on equal rights for the migrants, to avoid their exploitation.
Concerns regarding the cost of immigration, such as the provision of schools for the additional population, are prominent in the United States and Canada. See Economic impact of immigration to Canada. Although much current research has pointed to the fact that the U.S. and Canada are actually dependent on migrant labor, see The Center for U.S. - Mexico Immigration Analysis.
Scholars have come to various opinions about the economic effects of immigration. Those who find that immigrants produce a negative effect on the US economy often focus on the difference between taxes paid and government services received and wage-lowering effects among low-skilled native workers. The economic impact of immigration differs by immigration category. For example, according to Statistics Canada, there are significant differences in the labour force participation rates. 2001 labour statistics by immigration category:
Data source: Statistics Canada, 2001, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada.
For clarity: Employment Rate = Participation Rate * (1 - Unemployment Rate)
In 2001, the overall unemployment rate of immigrants was 37%. Combined with the overall participation rate of 70%, this means that only 44% of landed immigrants aged 15 years and higher were working in 2001 (i.e., a majority of 56% were not working). The 44% employment rate was significantly lower than the average 2001 employment rate in Canada of 61%. Immigrant unemployment levels do not reduce to the Canadian average during at least the first 10 years of residing in Canada.
Employment statistics also bring into question whether skilled worker immigrants, with a 34% unemployment rate, are successfully meeting existing labour market needs in Canada, and Statistics Canada explains that although progress was made in reducing poverty with pre-1990 residents of Canada (as measured by the low-income rate), this progress was more than offset by the income profile of new immigrants, resulting in a net widening of the income inequality gap in Canada during the 1990s. And a more recent 2007 Statistics Canada study shows that the income profile of recent immigrants deteriorated by yet another significant amount from 2000 to 2004. Another Statistics Canada study also shows that immigration reduces overall wage levels in Canada.

Security arguments

In the United States, concerned parties argue that an influx of immigrants, especially less educated immigrants, is responsible for an increase in theft and violent crime in the areas they migrate to. This concern is prevalent in many strata of society, from the common man (a 2000 survey of Americans found 73 percent felt immigrants were dangerous because they brought crime) to the highest levels of the US Government (as clearly stated in a speech by George W. Bush on May 15, 2006). As Professor Ruben Rumbaut and Walter Ewing have noted, this impression is reinforced and magnified by television shows and movies such as The Godfather, The Sopranos, Scarface, Rush Hour and West Side Story that strongly correlate ethnic immigrant groups with organized crime.
Statistics, however, do not consistently support this argument. While one 2005 report stated that 21% of all crimes are committed by illegal immigrants, other reports released in 2008 showed that immigrants were anywhere from three to five times less likely to commit crimes than native-born American residents.
Some groups argue that immigration debate increases one type of crime: violent crimes by United States-born citizens against immigrants. According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as debate on the issue of immigration increased and language became more incendiary from 2003 to 2006, hate crimes against Latinos rose by 35% The anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform has argued that these statistics are flawed, stating that violence by non-Latino gangs against the Latino organized criminal element are being mistaken for racial violence.

Nationalistic arguments

Non-economic opposition to immigration is closely associated with nationalism, in Europe a 'nationalist party' is almost a synonym for 'anti-immigration party'. Although traditionally, economic arguments dominated the United States immigration debate, it has become more polarized in recent years, as evidenced by demands to deploy the military to the US borders. The emergence of private border militias in the United States has attracted much media attention. Nevertheless, the southern border of the European Union in the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla has Spanish military and paramilitary Guardia Civil patrols while the US-Mexico is still patrolled by civilian police forces.
Like their Korean neighbors, Japanese tend to equate nationality or citizenship with membership in a single, homogeneous ethnic group or race. A shared language and culture also are viewed as important elements in Japanese identity. The idea of multiracial or multiethnic nations, like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, or the United States, strikes many Japanese as odd or even contradictory. Both Japan and South Korea are among the world's most ethnically homogeneous nations. Those who were identified as different might be considered "polluted" —- the category applied historically to the outcasts of Japan, particularly the hisabetsu buraku, "discriminated communities," often called burakumin, a term some find offensive —- and thus not suitable as marriage partners or employees. Men or women of mixed ancestry, those with family histories of certain diseases, and foreigners, and members of minority groups faced discrimination in a variety of forms. In 2005, a United Nations report expressed concerns about racism in Japan and that government recognition of the depth of the problem was not total. The author of the report, Doudou Diène (Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights), concluded after a nine-day investigation that racial discrimination and xenophobia in Japan primarily affects three groups: national minorities, Latin American immigrants of Japanese descent, mainly Japanese Brazilians, and foreigners from "poor" countries.
The primary argument of some nationalist opponents in Europe and Asia is that immigrants simply do not belong in a nation-state which is by definition intended for another ethnic group. France, therefore, is for the French, Germany is for the Germans, Japan is for the Japanese, and so on. Immigration is seen as altering the ethnic and cultural composition of the national population, and consequently the national character. From a nationalist perspective, high-volume immigration potentially distorts or dilutes their national culture more than is desired or even necessary. Germany, for example, was indeed intended as a state for Germans: the state's policy of mass immigration was not foreseen by the 19th-century nationalist movements. Immigration has forced Germany and other western European states to re-examine their national identity: part of the population is not prepared to redefine it to include immigrants. It is this type of opposition to immigration which generated support for anti-immigration parties such as Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the British National Party in Britain, the Lega Nord in Italy, the Front National in France, and the Lijst Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands.
One of the responses of nation-states to mass immigration is to promote the cultural assimilation of immigrants into the national community, and their integration into the political, social, and economic structures. In the United States, cultural assimilation is traditionally seen as a process taking place among minorities themselves, the 'melting pot'. In Europe, where nation-states have a tradition of national unification by cultural and linguistic policies, variants of these policies have been proposed to accelerate the assimilation of immigrants. The introduction of citizenship tests for immigrants is the most visible form of state-promoted assimilation. The test usually include some form of language exam, and some countries have reintroduced forms of language prohibition.

Environmentalist arguments

Environmentalist opposition to immigration is prominent in Canada, which has the largest absolute numbers of immigrants. Responses to immigration are a controversial topic among environmental activists, especially within the Sierra Club. Some oppose the immigration-driven population growth in the United States as unsustainable, and advocate immigration reduction. Other environmentalists see overpopulation and environmental degradation as global problems, that should be addressed by other methods. Most European countries do not have the high population growth of the United States, and some experience population decline. In such circumstances, the effect of immigration is to reduce decline, or delay its onset, rather than substantially increase the population. The Republic of Ireland is one of the only EU countries comparable to the United States in this respect, since large-scale immigration contributed to substantial population growth. Spain has also witnessed a recent boost in population due to high immigration.
Some members of the Australian environmental movement, notably the organisation Sustainable Population Australia, believe that as the driest inhabited continent, Australia cannot continue to sustain its current rate of population growth without becoming overpopulated. The UK-based Optimum Population Trust supports the view that Australia is overpopulated, and believes that to maintain the current standard of living in Australia, the optimum population is 10 million (rather than the present 20.86 million), or 21 million with a reduced standard of living.
The USA constitutes approximately 5% of the world's population, but creates about 27% of the world's economy. In so doing, it consumes about 25% of world's resources, including approximately 26% of the world's energy, although having only around 3% of the world's known oil reserves, and generate approximately 30% of world's waste. The average American's impact on the environment is approximately 250 times greater than the average Sub-Saharan African's. In other words, with current consumption patterns, population growth in the United States is more of a threat to the Earth's environment than population growth in any other part of the world (currently, at least 1.8 million legal and illegal immigrants settle in the United States each year; with the average Hispanic woman giving birth to 3 children in her lifetime).
California's population continues to grow by more than a half million a year and is expected to reach 48 million in 2030. According to the California Department of Water Resources, if more supplies aren't found by 2020, residents will face a water shortfall nearly as great as the amount consumed today. Los Angeles is a coastal desert able to support at most 1 million people on its own water; the Los Angeles basin now is the core of a megacity that spans from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. The region's population is expected to reach 22 million by 2020, and 28 million in 2035. The population of California continues to grow by more than a half million a year and is expected to reach 48 million in 2030. Water shortage issues are likely to arise well before then. California is considering using energy-expensive desalination to solve this problem.
U.S. Census Bureau figures show that the U.S. population grew by 2.8 million between July 1, 2004, and July 1, 2005. If current birth and immigration rates were to remain unchanged for another 60 to 70 years, the US population would double to approximately 600 million people. The Census Bureau's latest estimates actually go so far as to predict that there will be 1 billion Americans in 2100.
Dale Allen Pfeiffer claims that to achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster, the United States must reduce its population by at least one-third, and world population will have to be reduced by two-thirds. The current U.S. population of more than 300 million and world population exceeding 6.6 billion is, according to Pfeiffer, unsustainable. Fast-shrinking supplies of oil and gas are essential to modern agriculture, so coming decades could see spiraling food prices without relief and massive starvation on a global level such as never experienced before by the humans.

As political issue

The political debate about immigration is now a feature of most developed countries.
Some, such as Japan, traditionally found alternate ways of filling the role normally filled by immigrants (for example, greater automation to compensate for labor shortages), and designed immigration laws specifically to prevent immigrants from remaining within the country. However, globalization, as well as low birth rates and an aging work force, has forced even Japan to reconsider its immigration policy.
Residents of one member nation of the European Union are allowed to work in other member nations with little to no restriction on movement. Due to this policy, traditionally homogenous countries which usually sent a significant portion of their population overseas, such as Italy and the Republic of Ireland are seeing an influx of immigrants from EU countries with lower per capita annual earning rates, triggering nationwide immigration debates.
Spain, meanwhile, is seeing growing illegal immigration from Africa. As Spain is the closest EU member nation to Africa, it is physically easiest for African emigrants to reach. This has led to debate both within Spain and between Spain and other EU members. Spain has asked for border control assistance from other EU nations; those nations have responded that Spain has brought the wave of African illegals on itself by granting amnesty to hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
The United Kingdom and Germany have seen major immigration since the end of World War II and have been debating the issue for decades. Foreign workers were brought in to those countries to help rebuild after the war, and many stayed. Political debates about immigration typically focus on statistics, the immigration law and policy, and the implementation of existing restrictions. In some European countries the debate in the 1990's was focused on asylum seekers, but restrictive policies within the European Union, as well as a reduction in armed conflict in Europe and neighboring regions, have sharply reduced asylum seekers.
In the United States political debate on immigration has flared repeatedly since the US became a nation, generally at times when an ethnically distinct group is moving in large numbers to the US. Since Since September 11, 2001, it has become an extremely hot issue due to perceived security and economic threats from outsiders on one side and a push for more opportunity for legal immigration on the other. It is a central topic of the 2008 election cycle.
The politics of immigration have become increasingly associated with others issues, such as national security, terrorism, and in western Europe especially, with the presence of Islam as a new major religion. Some components of conservative movements see an unassimilated, economically deprived, and generally hostile immigrant population as a threat to national stability; other elements of conservative movements welcome immigrant labor. Those with security concerns cite the 2005 civil unrest in France that point to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy as an example of the value conflicts arising from immigration of Muslims in Western Europe. Because of all these associations, immigration has become an emotional political issue in many European nations.


Although freedom of movement is often recognized as a civil right, the freedom only applies to movement within national borders: it may be guaranteed by the constitution or by human rights legislation. Additionally, this freedom is often limited to citizens and excludes others. No state currently allows full freedom of movement across its borders, and international human rights treaties do not confer a general right to enter another state. According to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, citizens may not be forbidden to leave their country. There is no similar provision regarding entry of non-citizens. Those who reject this distinction on ethical grounds, argue that the freedom of movement both within and between countries is a basic human right, and that the restrictive immigration policies, typical of nation-states, violate this human right of freedom of movement. Such arguments are common among anti-state ideologies like anarchism and libertarianism. Note that a right to freedom of entry would not, in itself, guarantee immigrants a job, housing, health care, or citizenship.
Where immigration is permitted, it is typically selective. Ethnic selection, such as the White Australia policy, has generally disappeared, but priority is usually given to the educated, skilled, and wealthy. Less privileged individuals, including the mass of poor people in low-income countries, cannot avail of these immigration opportunities. This inequality has also been criticised as conflicting with the principle of equal opportunities, which apply (at least in theory) within democratic nation-states. The fact that the door is closed for the unskilled, while at the same time many developed countries have a huge demand for unskilled labour, is a major factor in illegal immigration. The contradictory nature of this policy - which specifically disadvantages the unskilled immigrants while exploiting their labour - has also been criticised on ethical grounds.
Immigration polices which selectively grant freedom of movement to targeted individuals are intended to produce a net economic gain for the host country. They can also mean net loss for a poor donor country through the loss of the educated minority - the brain drain. This can exacerbate the global inequality in standards of living that provided the motivation for the individual to migrate in the first place. An example of the 'competition for skilled labour' is active recruitment of health workers by First World countries, from the Third World.


Further reading

  • Center for Immigration Studies Refer to "Publications" for free research on illegal immigration, demographic trends, terrorism concerns, environmental impact, and many other subjects.
  • Peter C. Meilander (2001),Towards a Theory of Immigration, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0312240349
  • Philippe Legrain Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, ISBN 0316732486
  • Joe Freeman (2007), Living and Working in the European Union for Non-EU Nationals, ISBN 0-9786254-0-4.
  • Isabel Valle. Fields of Toil: A Migrant Family's Journey, ISBN 978-0-87422-101-5
  • Lorane A. West. Color: Latino Voices in the Pacific Northwest, ISBN 978-0-87422-274-6
  • Massey, Douglas S., Arango, Joaquín, Graeme, Hugo, Kouaouci, Ali, Pellegrino, Adela and Taylor, J. Edward (2005), Worlds in Motion: Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-928276-5.
  • Dowell Myers (2007), Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America, Russell Sage Foundation, ISBN 978-0-87154-636-4.
  • Aristide Zolberg, A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America, Harvard University Press 2006, ISBN 0674022181
  • Philippe Legrain, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, Little Brown 2007, ISBN 0316732486
  • Ruben Rumbaut and Walter Ewing, "The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates among Native and Foreign-Born Men," The Immigration Policy Center (Spring 2007).
  • The website for all immigrants in America - Everything about U.S. immigration:
  • Harald Bauder (2006), Labor Movement: How Migration Regulates Labor Markets, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Douglas S. Massey, Beyond the Border Buildup: Towards a New Approach to Mexico-U.S. Migration, Immigration Policy Center, the American Immigration Law Foundation [September 2005]
  • Immigration Policy Center, Economic Growth & Immigration: Bridging the Demographic Divide, Immigration Policy Center, the American Immigration Law Foundation [November 2005]
  • Walter A. Ewing, Border Insecurity: U.S. Border-Enforcement Policies and National Security, Immigration Policy Center, the American Immigration Law Foundation [Spring 2006]
  • Susan C. Pearce, Immigrant Women in the United States: A Demographic Portrait, Immigration Policy Center, the American Immigration Law Foundation [Summer 2006]
  • Ruben G. Rumbaut, and Walter A. Ewing, The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates Among Native and Foreign-Born Men, Immigration Policy Center, the American Immigration Law Foundation [Spring 2007]
  • Jill Esbenshade, Division and Dislocation: Regulating Immigration through Local Housing Ordinances, Immigration Policy Center, the American Immigration Law Foundation [Summer 2007]
  • Jeffrey S. Passel and Roberto Suro; Rise, Peak and Decline: Trends in U.S. Immigration; Pew Hispanic Center (Sep. 2005)
  • Jeffrey S. Passel, Senior Research Associate; Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population; Pew Hispanic Center (March 2005)
  • Jeffrey S. Passel; Growing Share of Immigrants Choosing Naturalization; Pew Hispanic Center (March 2007)

External links

immigrants in Arabic: هجرة
immigrants in Czech: Přistěhovalectví
immigrants in Welsh: Mewnfudo
immigrants in Danish: Immigration
immigrants in German: Einwanderung
immigrants in Modern Greek (1453-): Μετανάστευση
immigrants in Spanish: Inmigración
immigrants in Esperanto: Enmigrado
immigrants in French: Immigration
immigrants in Korean: 이민
immigrants in Croatian: Imigracija
immigrants in Ido: Enmigro
immigrants in Indonesian: Imigrasi
immigrants in Icelandic: Innflytjandi
immigrants in Italian: Immigrazione
immigrants in Malay (macrolanguage): Imigrasi
immigrants in Dutch: Immigratie
immigrants in Japanese: 移民
immigrants in Norwegian: Innvandring
immigrants in Norwegian Nynorsk: Innvandring
immigrants in Portuguese: Imigração
immigrants in Russian: Иммиграция населения
immigrants in Simple English: Immigrant
immigrants in Serbian: Имиграција
immigrants in Finnish: Maahanmuutto
immigrants in Swedish: Invandring
immigrants in Ukrainian: Імміграція
immigrants in Chinese: 移民
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