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Historians affirm that migration begun with the origins of mankind in the Rift Valley in Africa, from where between about 1.5 million spread initially into Europe and later into other continents. Khalid Koser the author of
a very short introduction
states that Greek colonization and Roman expansion depended on migration and outside Europe significant movements were also associated with the ancient empires such as Mesopotamian, Inca, Indus, and Zhou. Others significant migration in early history would be the one of the Vikings and of the Crusaders to the Holy Land.
Koser, according to the historian Robin Cohen corroborates key events concerning migration which occurred in the last three centuries.
One of the predominant migration events was certainly the forced transportation of slaves into “The new World” around 18th and 19th century. It is believed that an estimated of 12 million people were violently forced from mainly Western Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. The reason why this migration event it is so important until present time it is because it still resonates for the descendants of slaves and among
African Americans in particular.
European expansion was a different story; the migration was in a large-scale voluntary resettlement, mainly to the colonies or settlement, the dominions, and the Americas. The major colonies were Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and France which promoted migration not only to workers but also to peasants, soldiers, convicts, and orphans. Migration related to expansion came to an end when anti-colonial movements rose at the end of the 19th century.
The subsequently migration period began with the rise of the United States of America as an industrial super power were millions of workers arrived from Northern, Southern, and Eastern Europe, territories that were economically inactive or had repressive political regimes. This migration period lasted from 1850 until the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The next major period of migration was after the Second World War, when labor was needed to sustain booming post war economies in Europe, North America and Australia, for instance, Turkish people migrated to Germany and African people to France and Belgium. By the 1970s European labor was over to Europe but continued to the USA in the early 1990s.
It is vital to settle an historical context regarding international migration not only to understand that it isn’t just a current issue but also to comprehend the huge impact that it is still having nowadays around the World. Migration has mattered through History and it still matters today.
The American south and the contradictions of American slavery, image available at:
Reasons for migration
According to Keely and Tomasi there are four general admitted reasons for people to leave their origin countries.
- Refugees or persons who leave their own country because of well-founded fear of persecution by reasons of race, religion, nationality, political association or social grouping.
- Economically active persons for the purpose of employment.
- A residual category such as pilgrims, ministers of religion, diplomatic and assimilated personnel, students, volunteers sponsored publicly or by charity, retired or other persons living entirely on their own means.
- A derivative category, namely the parents, spouses, siblings and children of some or all of the preceding three groups. (1)
The majority of the emigrants from Latin American countries during the last years have left their countries due to economic reasons. They find a more prosperous life in the most developed countries. Studies made with Latin American immigrants in the Southern Europe, show that
the "push" factors for out-migration, which have existed for several decades intensified. These include high unemployment and underemployment rates, political instabilities, and the weakening of the welfare state, which has meant a decrease in social-services spending, among other reasons. (2)
Main Host Countries
Among the annual number of legal entries into a country or the number of immigrants who have been there for some time. These are the countries that stand out.
According to the UNESCO courier the first main host country for migration is the United States with 720,000 entries in 1995, but 1.8 million in 1991, including 1.1 million whose status was regularized by a law passed in 1986. Germanyis the second country hosting migrants with 800,000 in 1995, 1.2 million in 1991. Next approaching the figures is Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Israel, which take in an average of between 100,000 and 200,000 legal immigrants every year.
The author of the article states that in terms of the number of resident aliens, the United States is again top of the list, with 24.6 million foreigners living in the country in 1996 (9.3% of the total population), just ahead of India (8.6 million in 1990, or 1% of its population), Pakistan (7.2 million or 6%) and Germany (7.1 million, 8.8%).
The following is a Graphic showing the Immigration trend in the United States of America:
Disadvantages of Latin American immigrants in the US
It is important to state that the difficulties for Latin American immigrants in the United States (the main host country for “latino” immigrants) differ according to the category to which they belong. The most relevant groups are composed of manual labourers or skilled workers and professional.
Manual labour immigration corresponds most closely to popular stereotypes about contemporary migrants. The movement of foreign workers in search of menial and generally low-paying jobs has represented the volume of immigration, both legal and undocumented, in recent years. They receive low wages, many live below poverty line, and they are commonly uninsured. Census statistics show that immigrant nationalities that are composed primarily of this type of migrant are in a much inferior economic situation relative to the native born. (3)
Professionals with advanced degrees are called the “priority workers” as they have any special ability. Unlike the first, the vast majority of its members come legally and are not destined to the bottom rungs of the American labour market. They tend to be reasonably satisfied about their chances for advancement seldom migrate.
The largest minority of the US population is that segment called “latino” which accounts for 40.4 million people (14% of the total population). People from Mexican origin account for 66 per cent of this group. Mexico is the world’s largest diaspora concentrated in a single foreign country. As previously mentioned, the majority of these immigrant group are manual labourers, having the biggest difficulties to integrate socio-politico and, mainly, economically to the host country. (4)
The process of integration Mexican immigrants into US society can be seen in terms of labour insertion and access to public services such as health and education. Moreover, most Mexicans live in overcrowded conditions, confined to marginalized neighbourhoods that keep them separate from the rest of the US population, and that Mexican children are among the most segregated in the public schools:
- Most of the Mexican immigrants are wage-earners who occupy the lowest rung on the US income ladder and, consequently, report the highest levels of poverty.
- Mexican immigrants’ access to health services is limited. In spite of the contribution they make to the US economy, public policies tend to restrict or completely exclude them from access to such services. in 2003, more than half of those Mexicans were reported having no medical coverage, a higher proportion than the found among other immigrant groups from Latin American and the Caribbean, and much higher than the ratio immigrants from other parts of the world.
- Mexican emigrants have very low levels of schooling, in comparison to migrants of other nationalities and with US-born Mexican-Americans.
The persistent socio-economic deterioration of first-, second-, and later-generation Mexican migrants in the United States has served to cut off access to social mobility. The serious implications of this process must not be underestimated. It should also be noted that Mexicans report relatively high levels of incarceration and social lumpenization, which affect US society in general. Moreover, their level of participation in political affairs and elections is the lowest among all immigrant groups. (5)
Immigrants from Guatemala are not in a better situation. Health inequalities in pluralistic medical systems, health as human right, anthropology of pharmaceuticals, socio-cultural epidemiology; social stratification in Guatemala, Latin American immigrants in the US. K'iche' language and culture.
According to the UNESCO, irregular migration is all migration taking place outside a legal framework, i.e. people who enter a country, usually in search of employment, without the necessary documents and permit through trafficking, smuggling, overstaying of visas, etc. This type of migration is also referred to as undocumented or illegal migration.
Irregular migration is a complex concept to define and requires a careful classification. There is more than one way to become an irregular immigrant, this might be the following:
- Entering a country without passing through a border control or entering with fraudulent documents.
- People that entered the territory legally but become irregular after the expiration of their visa or work permit.
- It also includes people that moved by migrant smugglers or human traffickers, and those who abuse the asylum system.
The Global Commission of International Migration prepared a paper for the policy analysis and research program written by Khalid Koser (University College London) where he states some characteristics regarding irregular migration, state security and human security.
One of the characteristics of this kind of migration is that in most countries, the political significance of irregular migration far overweighs its numerical significance.
Irregular migration poses very real dilemmas for states as well as exposing migrants themselves to insecurity and vulnerability. Most states have, nevertheless, failed to manage or control irregular migration effectively and therefore require a new, more effective approach to address the issue. It’s important to recognize both, the concern of states in this respect and the need to protect the rights of irregular migrants.
The negative consequences of irregular migration for immigrants are often underestimated. The author affirms that it can endanger their lives and that a large number of people die each day trying to cross land and sea borders without being detected by the authorities.
The author estimates that at least 2000 emigrants die each year trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe, and that about 400 Mexicans die trying to cross the border into the USA each year.
Other negative characteristic of irregular migration is that people that enters or remain in a country without authorization are often at risk of exploitation by employers and landlords. And because of their irregularity migrants are unable to make full use of their skills and experience.
Another negative factor for irregular migrants is that they are always unwilling to seek redress from authorities due to the fear of being arrested and consequently deported; therefore they don’t make use of public services, such as emergency healthcare, among others.
International migration is often described also as constituting a threat to state sovereignty. In certain more extreme discourses, irregular migration has also been perceived as a threat to state security (Koslowski 2004). Specifically irregular migration and asylum, it has been suggested, may provide channels for potential terrorists to enter other countries.
Sometimes this is a misconception that the states have over the immigrants, it is believed that they immigrate to become part of illegal activities and it is also believed that they bring inside the boarders diseases, and social disorders.
Irregular migrants and unsuccessful asylum seekers have traditionally been deported or forcibly returned from countries of destination. In several countries, particularly in Europe, attention has recently turned to the extent to which assisted voluntary return programs might be a more effective way to promote returns. Civil society is regularly concerned about personal safety and dignity during the deportation process.
The author concludes after an extensive analysis of irregular immigration that people with irregular migration status will continue although it may reduce in scale with in time.
Irregular inmigrants, image available at:
These are the news about Latin American migration during the last two years. What follows is a quick view of some of the most important facts about “latinos” in the rest of the world published in the media.
Thousands of Latinos in the United States requires legality to the Capitol (March 22nd 2010 – El País, Spain): 175 thousand people marched last week to the Capitol of the United States and raised their voices for the legalization of the 12 million of Latin American immigrants residing illegally in that country. This is a topic that the president Barack Obama will have to take seriously into account and start working in that direction.
Since the last ten years, Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States, composing the 15.4% of the total population. For this reason, they decided that this is the moment to ask for legalization, and president Obama expressed his commitment to the crowd. (6)
Canada to speed up immigration requests from Haiti (January 16th 2010 – Los Angeles Times – US): The Canadian government says it will expedite immigration applications from Haitians with family in Canada and give immigration priority to Haitians affected by the devastating earthquake. It will also open a satellite immigration office in Dominican Republic to help facilitate the process. (7)
Latin American immigrants transform Spanish capital (January 6th 2020 – m&c news): The presence of immigrants from Spain’s former colonies across the Atlantic has turned Madrid into the world’s most Latin cities outside South and Central America and the Caribbean. Over the last decade, the foreign population of the Madrid region has soared from about 2 per cent to 18 per cent of the region’s 6 million residents.
An estimated 5,000 Latin American entrepreneurs run bars, restaurants and discotheques, import products ranging from Peruvian drinks to Colombian underwear, and manage other companies in the Spanish capital. (8)
Latin America outraged at EU plan (June 20th 2008 – BCC News): Leaders across Latin America have reacted angrily to a new EU law that could jail illegal immigrants for up to 18 months before they are deported. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans live and work in Europe, many of them without permission. Many do jobs that European do not want to do, providing a vital source of income for poor families back home. Presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador reacted against the measure that would oblige EU members to choose between issuing residency permits to the estimated half a million illegal immigrants who enter each year, or returning them to their country of origin. (9)
Canada Versus US Immigration Policy
In our studies of Latin America and immigration it is important to understand immigration policies in target countries. For this I will limit my examination to North America, investing the differences in Canadian and American legislation. It is important to note here that the ‘Point system’ was pioneered here in Canada and that many of the other counties that use it, such as the UK and Australia, have adapted it from Canadian policy. The Point System as the name implies utilizes such things as age, literacy, education, and work experience among others, to assign a point value to the person applying to emigrate. The current standard is a value of 64 points to be considered a viable immigrant (Immigration Canada). The system itself is designed to bring to Canada only “the best and brightest” foreign professionals. To evaluate this system for yourself please follow the following link:
Now consider how you faired on the first four questionnaires? It seems strange to think that many Western Canadians may score vary poorly on the first four questions. Why? To understand let us evaluate the four questions. “Age” approximately 57
percent of Canadian fall outside of the maximum scoring zone and are either below age of 20 or over the age of 50 (Stats Canada.). Under “Education,” I myself only score 5 points, despite my efforts as a first year university student. Under “Language,” most native Albertans would only receive 16 out of the maximum 24 (under the assumption that Albertans can read and write at a high proficiency), due to the fact that to receive a maximum point value the participant must also be literate in French.
*(calculations obtained by adding ages <20 and >49, age 20 has been omitted because it is part of the range 20-24)
How ethical is the point system? How does it affect Latin America? Canada’s immigration policy is geared at attracting highly skilled workers and professionals. Indeed it maybe emphases by the “Adaptation” clause, that gives a meagre 5 points for having a relative in Canada, that we are not in the business of reuniting family.
Recently I was privileged to speak to a woman who is native to Haiti. Although she has recently been accepted to Canada her husband will be unable to join her because he fails the point system.
It stands in stark contrast to our closest neighbours the US, where it is possible to obtain citizenship through family ties. The current trend is to promote what’s called “Chain Migration” (Washington Post). Chain-Migration refers to the process by which immigrate families bring in more family (Washington Post).
In the United States, Mexico has always been one of the greatest contributors to foreign migration. It is no surprise then that any changes made to immigration policies in the US will inevitably have a major impact on the countries of origin.
(Photobucket) – Political satire on George W. Bush’s last attempts at immigration reforms.
The US has proposed plans for a major overhaul of their immigration policies. It seems a bit ironic because in late 2007 the Washington post wrote an article on proposed reforms to immigration legislation. One note worthy figure of the debate was Senator Barrack Obama, who insisted that the US government must maintain its morality and continue to reunite families.
The new and improved Point system has been revised to give 10 points out of 100 based on whether or not the immigrate has family living in the United States (American Immigration Support). Is this really the US maintaining its morality? This seems rather to be concurrent with United States Senator Joel D. Kaplan’s vision of “making sure [the United States is] competitive in the 21st century, we [have] to try to rebalance that . . . and focus more on our national interests.” (Washington Post). In the 21st century it seem likely that we may see a preference for increased economic growth over the reuniting of families, however the new point system is not without its perks. As the US economy changes there is an expanded niche for manual labour. It is estimated that new reforms may give as many as 12-20 million undeclared workers visas (US Immigration Support).
How does immigration affect Canada? Immigration plays a key role in annual population growth. From 2001 to 2006 immigration accounted for two thirds of annual growth, of which Latin American countries are the third largest contributors (Atlas of Canada Immigration).
This may impart be due to our geographical relationship, but more importantly due to the efforts of
during the 1960’s. During this time the US was heavily involved in military operations in Latin America (Migration Information Source). Canada at the time supported non-violence and channelled aid though organization like “The Red Cross” (Migration Information Source). In doing so, we set ourselves up as a North American haven for refugees.
In the last few decades however we have seen a dramatic shift in the numbers of foreign refugees and an increase in the number of workers and labours (Stats. Canada). Although Canada’s point system is designed to increase Canadian economic production, Latin America émigrés still remain in some of the lowest income areas (Stats Canada). This seems retrograde to Canada’s immigration policy to allow only the “best and brightest.” But, where is the discrepancy?
(The Globe and Mail) – Minister of Immigration Jason Kenny
What’s in the news as of March 30 2010? New proposed reforms advocated by Canada’s Immigrations Minister Jason Kenny hopes to streamline refugee policy (The Globe and Mail). What’s new? The proposed changes will allow Canada to accept 2,500 more refugees annually at a cost of over $45 million dollars (The Globe and Mail). However, only $9 million has been allotted by government agencies and it is expected that $36 million will come from private organizations (The Globe and Mail).
Critics have been quick to respond begging the question why should the costs been shovelled on to the backs community groups (The Globe and Mail). It remains to be seen whether private agencies can support such a hefty bill, especially when millions of dollars are already being poured into relief efforts all over the world.
In addition, it seems that in order to streamline the process refugee status will been determined on a mass scale with preference going to those in UN-Refugee camps (The Globe and Mail). Those whose countries are deemed safe will not be offered asylum in Canada despite claims of personal persecution (The Globe and Mail). This policy is a double-edged knife. On one hand being able to quickly confirm refugee status will ensure that immigrations Canada will not be backlogged, but on the other hand there are many more considerations than just whether a country is deemed ‘safe’. Although the legislation may tend to be bias, it may prove useful in addition to the already existing immigration laws.
Magdalena Russo: Reasons for migration; Disadvantages of LA immigrants in the US, Current situation
(1) Kritz, M., Keely, Ch. and Tomasi, S.;
Global trends in migration. Theory and Research on International Population Movements
; Library of Congress; United States of America; 1981.
(2) Padilla, Beatriz;
Latin American Immigration to Southern Europe
CIES, University Institute of Management, Social Sciences and Technology, Lisbon, João Peixoto, ISEG, Technical University of Lisbon; June 2007.
(3) Portes, A. and Rumbaut, R;
Immigrant America: A Portrait; University of California Press
; California; 2006; p. 20-21.
(4) Portes, A. and Rumbaut, R;
Immigrant America: A Portrait
; University of California Press; California; 2006; p. 25.
(5) Castles, S. and Delgado Wise, R.;
Migration and Development: Perspectives from the South
; International Organization for Migration (IOM); 2008; Switzerland; p.137.
(6) Monge, Yolanda;
Miles de latinos de EE UU exigen ante el Capitolio papeles para todos
; El Pais; Washington; 22/03/2010; available at:
(7) Los Angeles Times;
Canada to speed up immigration requests from Haiti
; Los Angeles; 15/01/2010; available at:
(8) Tarvainen, Sinikka;
Latin American immigrants transform Spanish capital
; m&c news; 06/01/2010; Europe; available at:
(9) Schweimler, Daniel;
Latin America outraged at EU plan
; BBC News; Buenos Aires; 20/06/1008; available at:
Yasna Valenzuela: Historical background; Main host countries; Irregular migration
(1) Best practices in Exploitative Migration, UNESCO; Definitions available at:
(2) David A. Gerber, Alan M. Kraut,
American Immigration and Ethnicity: a reader
. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-publication Data available from the Library of Congress. 2005
Friedberg M. Rachel; Hunt Jennifer;
the Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth.
The Journal of economic perspective, Vol. 9, N° 2, 1995.
International Migration, a very short Introduction.
Published in the United States by the Oxford University press Inc., New York. 2007; p.1-69.
(5) Koser Khalid,
Irregular migration, State security and Human Security;
A paper prepared for the Policy Analysis and the Research Programe of the Global Commision on International Migration (GCIM), University of London; September 2005; p.2-28. Available at:
(6) Kritz, M., Keely, Ch. and Tomasi, S.;
Global trends in migration. Theory and Research on International Population Movements
; Library of Congress; United States of America; 1981.
who goes where? A world-wide overview of immigration-host countries, numbers: ways and means, goals and traditions
University of Poitiers, France. Available at:
Stephen Weir-Poffenroth: Canada Versus US Immigration Policy.
Abramowitz, Michael. Immigration Bill's Point System Worries Some Groups - washingtonpost.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2010.
Population by sex and age group.
Statistics Canada - Summary tables
. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2010.
The Atlas of Canada - Immigration. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2010.
USCIS Home Page.
USCIS Home Page
. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2010.
USCIS Home Page.
USCIS Home Page
. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2010.
Google. Kenney proposes a two-stream approach to refugee reform - The Globe and Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
Obama: Immigration bill this year - Yahoo! News.
N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
Immigration image by XicanoPwr on Photobucket.
N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
Between Two Worlds: How Latinos Come of Age in America
This article is relevant to this subject because it consists on a report of a search made to the second generations of Latin American immigrants in the United States. It is focused on the young people (aged 16 to 25) because it is considered that it is the phase of life they make decisions that will affect their adulthood. For this specific group, it is also the time to get involved in a culture that is the result of the combination of both American and Latin American values and customs.
Based on a telephone survey made by the Pew Hispanic Center to more than 2000 Latinos, this report explores the attitudes, values, social behaviours, family characteristics, economic well-being, educational attainment and labour force outcomes of these young people.
The result shows that they are satisfied with their lives, optimistic about the futures and place a high value on education, hard work and career success. They are more likely than other American youths to drop out of school and become teenage parents. They are also more likely than white and Asian youths to live in poverty and they tend to be highly exposed to gangs.
Modern Day Slavery in Mexico and the United States by COHA Research Associate Megan McAdams. Available at:
This article illustrates one of the ways to become an irregular migrant and how people get dragged to this human trafficking network without even notice. Human trafficking is an issue that still affects our modern society nowadays. I was really surprised when I read this article regarding the human traffickers in Mexico. Last December 3rd Mexican police freed 107 trafficking victims who were forced to manufacture articles in a slave –like setting. Human trafficking has negative consequences for the people involved, because traffickers exploit migrants. Victims get involved into low-paid, insecure and irregular work conditions in which they might not find a way to escape. It is difficult to believe the enormous amount of money they make yearly by trafficking people, and I was really shocked by all the people still affected by this global issue. Human Trafficking starts when individuals are “pushed” from countries that have few economic or educational opportunities available and “pulled” towards wealthier countries that have a demand for sex and labor. Smugglers formulate attractive and fake plans to attract people who need opportunities in life. I am glad that International organizations and some important political figures such as the President of the United States of America are trying to mobilize to track these traffickers and put a real end to the issue.
Immigration Bill's Point System Worries Some Groups
By Michael Abramowitz Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 27, 2007
I have chosen the following article to highlight the debate over American immigration policy:
I have chosen this item for two reasons:
The first reason being that proposed changes would alter the dynamic of US immigration policy and bring into question morality.
The second is because the article was written in 2007 and features Barrack Obama when he was a senator.
The question now becomes, will Obama presidency see a drastic change in policy? According to US Immigration Support, proposed changes for amnesty would allow 12-20 million undocumented workers to obtain visas; however no such action yet been taken.
It remains to be seen whether Obama will be able to overhaul US immigration in the face of his recent overhaul of the American medical system. The two pronged approach was scheduled hand in hand, but with the upcoming elections immigration legislation maybe put on hold.
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