Illegal immigration

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
It has been suggested that illegal alien be merged into this article or section. (Discuss)

Illegal immigration is the act of moving to or settling in another country or region, temporarily or permanently, in violation of the law of the host country or without documents permitting a foreign national to settle there. Illegal immigrants (also known as undocumented aliens) are individuals who move to a new country either illegally, or who arrive in a legal manner but then outstay their authorized time in the host country. People who migrate to a territory militarily controlled by their home country regardless of the will of the local population are not usually referred to as illegal immigrants, however in international law they are termed illegal settlers.



There are various terms used to describe a person who either enters a country illegally, or who enters legally but subsequently violates the terms of their visa, permanent resident permit or refugee permit. The status and rights of such individuals is a controversial debate based on economics, nationalism, racism, and moral concerns.

Due to the political contention surrounding immigration issues, the use of language to describe certain types of immigrants is a sensitive matter. Terms that refer to immigrants who do not have residency permits to stay in the country of their choice, include:

  • illegal immigrant
  • illegals
  • illegal alien
  • undocumented alien
  • undocumented immigrant

The terms "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien" are common use phrases that refer to the illegality of the action of migration without legal authorization.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines "immigrants" as "legal permanent residents." Dictionaries define "immigrant" as "one who settles as a permanent resident in another country." Permanency is granted to immigrants by federal issuance of a "green card." An "alien" is a person who comes from a foreign country. Aliens residing in the US without residency authorization are subject to deportation and thus not permanent.

The term "illegal alien" includes "undocumented aliens" and "nonimmigrant overstayers." An "undocumented alien" is an alien who has entered the U.S. illegally, without entry documentation. A "nonimmigrant overstayer" is an alien who remains in the United States beyond the expiration date of the visa. Roughly 60% of the illegal alien population are undocumented aliens and 40 percent are nonimmigrant overstayers.


The international migration of people is largely driven by economic and social forces, including neocolonialism, demand created by consumers and the agribusiness industry, desire to secure a higher earning power, benefits such as education and healthcare, other multinational corporations seeking cheaper labor, unemployment in less-developed nations, globalization, wars, repression, resistance to various involuntary military servitude (such as conscription, "the draft" or its peacetime equivalent the National Service), and sexism.

Advocates of more restricted immigration divide people into political migrants and economic migrants, while supporters of more open immigration may consider migrants as legitimate refugees. Those who migrate for personal reasons are generally classed as economic migrants, even if living in the new country greatly reduces their earnings potential.


Some illegal immigrants enter a country legally and then overstay or violate their visa.

Immigrants from nations that do not have an automatic visa agreements, or who would not otherwise qualify for a visa, often cross the borders illegally. In some areas like the U.S.-Mexico border, the Strait of Gibraltar, Fuerteventura and the Strait of Otranto, people smugglers (known as "coyotes" along the U.S.-Mexican border) receive money from migrants to get them into the new country. Because these methods must be extralegal, they are often dangerous. Would-be immigrants suffocate in shipping containers, boxcars, and trucks, sink in unseaworthy vessels, die of dehydration or exposure during long walks without water. Sometimes migrants are abandoned if there are difficulties, often dying in the process. Others may be victims of intentional killing. The official estimate is that between 1998-2004 there were 1,954 people who died in illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border. These smugglers often charge a hefty fee, and have been known to abuse their customers in attempts to have the debt repaid.

The Snakeheads gang of Fujian, China has been smuggling labor into Pacific Rim nations for over a century, making Chinatowns frequent centers of illegal immigrantion.[1]

People smuggling may also be involuntary. Following the close of the legal international slave trade by the European nations and the United States in the early 19th century the illegal importation of slaves into America continued for decades, albeit at much reduced levels. More recently, a sweatshop in Los Angeles, California was discovered in 1995 to be staffed by more than 30 imprisoned Thai persons who had been smuggled in for the purpose and in 1997 57 deaf Mexicans were found to have been kidnapped and enslaved as pan handlers in New York City, these people were deported to Mexico after being placed under house arrest to secure their testimony for the trial.

The so-called "white slave trade" referred to the smuggling of women, almost always under duress or fraud, for the purposes of prostitution. Now more generically called "sexual slavery" it continues to be a problem, particularly in Europe and the Middle East.

Legal and political status

Many countries have or had laws restricting immigration for economic, political or ethnic reasons. Whether or not a person is permitted to stay in a country legally may be decided on by quotas or point systems or may be based on considerations such as family ties (marriage, elderly mother, etc.). Immigrants who do not participate in these legal proceedings or who are denied permission under them and still enter or stay in the country are considered illegal immigrants.

In response to the outcry following popular knowledge of the Holocaust, the newly-established U.N. held an international conference on refugees, where it was decided that refugees (legally defined to be people who are persecuted in their original country and then enter another country seeking safety) should be exempted from immigration laws, however it is up to the countries involved to decide if a particular immigrant is a refugee or not, and hence whether or not they are subject to the immigration controls.

Since immigrants without proper legal status have limited use of their identity cards or other official identification documents, they may have reduced or even no access to public health systems, proper housing, education and banks, which may result in the creation or expansion of an illegal underground economy to provide these services.

See also: Immigration to the United States, Australian immigration, Immigration to the United Kingdom

Economic and social involvement

Most countries have laws requiring workers to have proper documentation, often intended to prevent the employment of illegal immigrants. However the penalties against employers are not always enforced consistently and fairly, which means that employers can easily use illegal labor. Agriculture, construction, domestic service, restaurants, resorts, and prostitution are the leading legal and illegal jobs that illegal workers are most likely to fill. For example, it is estimated that 80% of U.S. crop workers are without valid legal status.

Many members of the public often react negatively to the presence of immigrants, whether legal or illegal, and such sentiments are often exploited politically. However, allegations that the presence of immigrants means increased rates of crime and unemployment are seen as "anti-immigrant" or "xenophobic" by many. When the authorities are overwhelmed in their efforts to stop immigration, they may issue periods of regularization (amnesties) for those who can demonstrate their integration into the receiving country.

European Union

Restricting immigration to the European Union has been driven by what some claim are anti-immigrant and xenophobic attitudes of nativism and unfounded concerns about unemployment and national security.

A major issue is illegal immigration from Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, especially via the Strait of Gibraltar, where thousands of people die every year in attempts to reach Europe.

United States

Restricting immigration to the United States has been driven by what some claim is nativism, by economic fears of union busting, by a desire not to waste the country's resources on citizens of foreign countries, and by security interests. In the U.S. the first laws requiring passports for American citizens and creating a quota for immigrants were passed around the turn of the 20th century, in response to increased Irish, Italian and Jewish immigration. A few years earlier the Chinese Exclusion Act had restricted Chinese immigration. The quota for Jews was 5,000 a year in the 1930s and 1940s, and the waiting list for these immigration spots grew enormously when Hitler came to power in Germany. In the 1960s the US removed most nation-specific quotas in the immigration law, while retaining an overall quota, this changed the composition of the immigrants from mostly Western European, to a variety including many Asians. But in the 1990s the U.S. government again tightened restrictions on immigration. It is alleged that Ex post facto residency restrictions led to the imprisonment and deportation of over one million legal immigrants between 1997 and 2004. This has caused concern among some civil liberties advocates.

In the United States, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) made the hiring of an illegal alien an offense for the first time. Enforcement has been lax, but major businesses have occasionally been found to use undocumented workers. Tyson Foods was accused of actively importing illegal labor for its chicken packing plants, and Wal-Mart was accused of using illegal janitorial workers, though it claimed they were hired by a subcontractor without company knowledge. Philippe Kahn, who wanted to stay in the United States, created the successful computer software company Borland International without proper legal status. During his 2003 campaign for California governor, it was revealed that Arnold Schwarzenegger had violated his visa by working without a permit in the 1970s. The employment by prominent individuals of persons without work permits has been a recurring issue in politics ever since the practice was banned in the 1990s. Linda Chavez, Zoe Baird, and Tom Tancredo are among those accused of hiring illegal aliens, the resulting scandals sometimes being dubbed "Nannygate".

A controversial alternative to fake IDs and other illegal practices is the Matricula Consular ID being used in the US, which is issued by Mexican consulates. This document is accepted at financial institutions in many states of the union and allow undocumented immigrants to open checking and saving accounts. The passage of the REAL ID Act of 2005 (a part of Public Law P.L. 109-13) prohibits States from issuing identification or driver's permit cards to anyone who cannot demonstrate that they are legally in the USA, taking full effect in 2008. Citizenship and/or immigration status is to be clearly denoted on these ID cards and they automatically expire on the expiration date of non-citizens' visas or other authorizing documentation. These IDs will be tied to online databases which will allow instant verification of the validity of these documents at low cost or no cost to the person seeking verification. It will be increasingly difficult for illegal aliens to use counterfeit documents to make it easy for them to live and work illegally in the USA.

In the U.S., the 14th Amendment requires that citizenship be granted to all children born in the country. The U.S. government cannot deport a child citizen, but may deport his or her undocumented family members. Children of families with mixed immigration status are sometimes perjoratively referred to as anchor babies. It is comparatively rare for illegal-alien parents of citizen children to be deported. The parents are then said to be "PRUCOL aliens", or aliens "Permanently Residing Under Color Of Law". "PRUCOL" is a status which covers a variety of situations, including but not limited to those appealing for and adjustment of status as refugee, or awaiting hearings to decide status and disposition, as well as covering those who are left undeported due to the citizenship of their children.


Mexico has accepted large quantities of immigrants during wars such as World War I (Germany, Yugoslavia, etc.) as well as those who are fleeing their native areas for religious persecution such as the Russian Molokai and Christian Lebanese. However, in the last decades, Mexico has received illegal immigrants as the result of civil war in Central America, many of which attempt to eventually cross the US-border illegaly. Some of the immigrants are members of the Mara Salvatrucha criminal organization who have terrorized places in Mexico and currently as north as Washington, DC. In the first eight months of 2005 alone, more than 120,000 people from Central America have been deported to their countries of origin. This is a higher number than the people deported in the same lapse in 2002, when 130,000 people were deported in the entire year [2]. Other important group of people are those of Chinese origin, who pay about $5,500 to smugglers to be taken to Mexico from Hong Kong. It is estimated that 2.4% rejections for work permits in Mexico correspond to Chinese citizens [3]. Many women from Eastern Europe, Asia, United States and Central and South America are also offered jobs at table dance establishments in large cities such as Mexico City and Monterrey and this has caused the National Institute of Immigration (INM) in Mexico to raid strip clubs and deport foreigners who work without the proper documentation [4]. After the Argentine economic crisis of 2001 many Argentines have chosen to immigrate to Mexico either temporarily or permanently. Many of these are currently working in the country with the proper documentation, including some who work also in table dance establishments. In 2004, the INM deported 188,000 people at a cost of USD$10 million [5].

Illegal emigration

There are also undocumented emigrants. During the Cold War, and even today, countries have prohibited both immigration and emigration. The Berlin Wall was the site of many fatal attempts to leave a country, and defection was a common concern. In the same period, the US seized the passports of suspected communists and restricted the movement of citizens with highly prized knowledge. After the end of the Cold War many of these restrictions were removed. Today the only restriction on the emigration of US citizens in good standing is taxation of any income emigrants earn while living outside the country. Since the end of the Cold War, restrictions are driven primarily by a concern over Brain Drain, this is when the professional classes leave in larger numbers than less skilled workers.

See also

External Link

Personal tools
In other languages