Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker.


  • • Almost one out of every 100 people worldwide currently has been forcibly displaced from his or her home, the largest number since 1951.
  • • In 2016, more Muslim than Christian refugees entered the United States, with 46 percent of refugees identifying as Muslim and 44 percent identifying as Christian.
  • • In 1819, Congress passed a law requiring that the names, ages, and occupations of all arrivals into the United States be recorded. This law is considered the first significant legislation on immigration made by the federal government.
  • • An estimated 40 to 50 percent of illegal immigrants residing in the United States did not illegally cross the border. Instead, they obtained legal visas as employees, students, or tourists and did not return home when their visas expired.
  • • High levels of illegal immigration into the United States began in the 1940s. World War II created labor shortages, leading to the creation in 1942 of the Bracero Program, which imported workers from Mexico with the intention of returning them to Mexico when they were no longer needed. However, even after the program ended in 1964, many of the former workers illegally reentered the United States to continue working for their previous employers. Immigrants from all over the world live in the United Kingdom
  • • The United Kingdom holds the most diverse population of immigrants in the world.
  • • Since 2009, while the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States has stabilized, the number of babies born to illegal immigrants decreased from about 330,300 to 275,000.
  • • Shortly after the adoption of the Constitution, a proposal was made to print all federal laws in German as well as English because of the large number of German immigrants. One vote in the House of Representatives defeated the proposal.
  • • Immigrants from France live in a higher number of countries throughout the world than immigrants from any other nation.
  • • Until the 1970s, male immigrants to the United States outnumbered female immigrants. In 2012, females made up a little over 51 percent of immigrants in the United States.
  • • About 60 percent of immigrants currently residing in the United States arrived before 2000.
  • • Both Presidents William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson vetoed laws that would have required immigrants to pass literacy tests in order to live in the United States.
  • • An estimated 904,000 immigrants in the United States today identify as LGBT.
  • • Anyone wishing to become an Austrian citizen must reside there continuously for a minimum of 15 years and denounce any other citizenship.
  • • In 2012, 33 percent of adults in Mexico stated that they perceive life in the United States as neither better nor worse than life in Mexico, with 35 percent stating that life in the United States was better than in Mexico.
  • • Since 2010, a little over 21 percent of Canada’s total population has been foreign-born. About one out of every five people in Canada was born in another country.
  • • California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois held 59 percent of the illegal immigrant population in 2014.
  • • Fewer than 2 percent of the immigrants who ever arrived in Ellis Island and applied for admission into the United States were rejected.
  • • Denmark is not known for welcoming immigrants, with its far-right Danish People’s Party declaring on its website, “Denmark is not an immigrant-country and never has been. Thus we will not accept transformation to a multiethnic society.”
  • • The six American Nobel Prize winners of 2016 in the areas of chemistry, physics, and economics are all immigrants.
  • • While the number of births in the United States to U.S.-born women has decreased since 1970, the number of births to immigrant women in the United States has risen, meaning that the U.S. population has increased since 1970 due to births to immigrant women.
  • • The Immigration Act of 1921 marked the first time a limit was placed not only on the number of immigrants allowed into the United States each year but also on the number of immigrants allowed from individual countries. No more than 3 percent of the number of foreign-born people from each country as recorded on the U.S. 1910 Census could be admitted.
  • • A single book led to a huge Scandinavian exodus into the United States. Ole Rynning, a Scandinavian man, wrote A True Account of America for the Information and Help of Peasant and Commoner, which contained practical information such as when to plant which crops and advice on combatting sea-sickness. The book inspired many people throughout Scandinavia to immigrate to the United States, and many Scandinavian children used it as their first text in learning to read.
  • • In 2016, Italy is projected to receive more refugees than any other European country. More than half of all Syrians have been forced to leave their homes.
  • • About 60 percent of Syria’s population has been displaced from their homes.
  • • An estimated 40 percent of all Americans have an ancestor who arrived in the United States through Ellis Island.
  • • In 2014, 17 percent of the civilian labor force in the United States consisted of immigrants.
  • • From 2009 to 2013, an estimated 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants entered the United States. The top five countries of birth for these immigrants were Mexico (56 percent), Guatemala (6 percent), El Salvador (4 percent), Honduras (3 percent), and China (3 percent).
  • • In 2014, 29 percent of immigrants in the United States age 25 and older held a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 30 percent of the U.S.-born population.
  • • Between 2008 and 2015, about 198,500 unaccompanied minors immigrated to Europe, with 48 percent of them arriving just in 2015.
  • • Due to the intense anti-Japanese rhetoric during World War II, about 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps without charges or trials.
  • • In 2009, Japan passed a law that offered unemployed Latin American immigrants $3,000 and their family members $2,000 if they promised to return to their country of origin and never return to work in Japan again.
  • • The first documented immigration from China into the United States consisted of a single Chinese man in 1820.


There are many harms to immigrant-receiving countries that various critics of immigration have pointed out. It is not axiomatically true that the benefits to immigrant-receiving countries outweigh the harms. However, there are some general reasons to expect that this is the case for migration to highly developed countries, which are indeed the target countries for most migrants.

The reasons are of two types:

  • • Highly developed countries are more likely to have knowledge-intensive economies. These kinds of economies are more likely to have higher levels of complementarily between labor. The economies can more readily adapt to the new forms of labor (for more, see the counter-arguments at the suppression of wages of natives page).
  • • People in developed countries are in a better position to experience the global benefits of open borders and capture a larger share of these locally. For instance, if immigrants provide the labor, capital, and entrepreneurship to set up a new business that caters to a global market, many of the benefits to consumers are global, but some of the benefits of the economic activity are concentrated in the area where the business was set up.

Similarly, migration to highly underdeveloped countries can also be extremely beneficial. For more on this, take a look at Indians in Uganda: economic impact and reception or at Nathan Smith’s blog post poor countries and IQ externalities.

In addition to these, there are a number of other relatively minor but still quite real benefits:

  • • Cuisine diversity
  • • Other cultural diversity benefits


There are many arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of migration and how it has affected us locally.

Impacts on host countries


  •  Job vacancies and skills gaps can be filled.
  •  Economic growth can be sustained.
  •  Services to an ageing population can be maintained when there are insufficient young people locally.
  •  The pension gap can be filled by the contributions of new young workers and they also pay taxes.
  •  Immigrants bring energy and innovation.
  •  Host countries are enriched by cultural diversity.
  •  Failing schools (and those with falling numbers) can be transformed.


     Depression of wages may occur but this seems to be temporary.

     Having workers willing to work for relatively low pay may allow employers to ignore productivity, training and innovation.

     Migrants may be exploited.

     Increases in population can put pressure on public services.

     Unemployment may rise if there are unrestricted numbers of incomers.

     There may be integration difficulties and friction with local people.

     Large movements of people lead to more security monitoring.

     Ease of movement may facilitate organised crime and people trafficking.

Impacts on countries of origin


  •  Developing countries benefit from remittances (payments sent home by migrants) that now often outstrip foreign aid.
  •  Unemployment is reduced and young migrants enhance their life prospects.
  •  Returning migrants bring savings, skills and international contacts.


  •  Economic disadvantage through the loss of young workers
  •  Loss of highly trained people, especially health workers
  •  Social problems for children left behind or growing up without a wider family circle

What are the Effects of Increased Migration Locally?

An Oxford Economics research study published by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) concluded that migrant workers had helped maintain an adequate labour supply to fuel the 2004–2008 economic boom. The availability of migrant labour seems to have made the difference between some businesses surviving, or in the case of food processing, not needing to relocate production abroad.

In addition the study indicated that migrants have

  •  facilitated growth in the economy;
  •  brought benefits to the tourism industry through the development of new air routes;
  •  had a positive influence on the productivity or efficiency of local workers;
  •  contributed new ideas and a fresh approach to firms;
  •  and greater cultural links with developing nations that will prove useful in growing international trade.
  •  The Economic, Labour Market and Skills Impacts of Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland

In addition to these economic benefits, incomers have helped the health and care services to continue functioning; contributed to cultural diversity; and increased the vitality, especially of some rural schools.


It is clear that immigration can be beneficial for migrants, but only if their rights are protected properly. It can also be economically beneficial for both countries of origin and host countries; however, with present economic and trading structures it is the rich and powerful countries that benefit most. Migration brings social and cultural pressures that need to be taken into account in planning for future services.

Migration also has the potential for bringing peoples together culturally but friction occurs if efforts are not made to dispel the myths held by local people. It is also essential to provide good information about the local way of life to newcomers and ensure opportunities for people to mix and integrate.