Posted on 19 August 2010
Editor’s note: This story was written by a high school student in Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Summer Youth Leadership Program. This story is part of a special back-to-school issue.
By Monique Saeteurn
Is there a difference between a refugee and an immigrant? Yes, there is a difference. Many don’t know or understand the difference between a refugee and an immigrant.
A refugee is a person who flees to a foreign country to escape danger or persecution. An immigrant is a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. Many people of color in America, especially Asians and Pacific Islanders, are refugees or immigrants.
Your parents, grandparents, and/or great grandparents came to the United States because they wanted to start a new life or they were forced to come. That’s where being a refugee or immigrant comes into play.
My family from Laos had to flee to the United States because of the dangerous war occuring at the time. My mom was about 7 years old when she came to the new country. She couldn’t remember much of what actually happened, but she later researched what happened and why our family had to come to the United States.
The U.N. actually helped my family settle into the new country and get us out of Laos. During the war, family members of mine were chased down by the Communists. That’s why we had to flee out of the country and go to the United States. My family members are considered refugees. I do have the majority of my family living in Washington, and we are very close to one another.
Other families came to the United States because they wanted a better future. That’s when people immigrate. Chinese and Japanese families were the first Asian/Pacific Islanders to come to the United States to seek jobs. As the men worked, they tried to get their families to come as well. They are considered to be immigrants.
There is a huge difference between a refugee and an immigrant, especially when it comes to history and the stories behind them. ♦
August 15th 2010
Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees from 1951, a refugee is a person who (according to the formal definition in article 1A of this Convention), “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. The concept of a refugee was expanded by the Convention’s 1967 Protocol and by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country.
Freedom may refer to:
- Free will is the purported ability of agents to make choices free from constraints. Historically, the constraint of dominant concern has been the metaphysical constraint of determinism. The opposing positions within that debate are metaphysical libertarianism, the claim that determinism is false and thus that free will exists; and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not exist.
- Both of these positions, which agree that causal determination is the relevant factor in the question of free will, are classed as incompatibilists. Those who deny that determinism is relevant are classified as compatibilists, and offer various alternative explanations of what constraints are relevant, such as physical constraints (e.g. chains or imprisonment), social constraints (e.g. threat of punishment or censure), or psychological constraints (e.g. compulsions or phobias).
- The principle of free will has religious, ethical, and scientific implications. For example, in the religious realm, free will implies that an omnipotent divinity does not assert its power over individual will and choices. In ethics, it may hold implications regarding whether individuals can be held morally accountable for their actions. The question of free will has been a central issue since the beginning of philosophical thought.
Political freedom is the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual by the use of coercion or aggression. Freedom is commonly known as a state of being free from government oppression.
The opposite of a free society is a totalitarian state, which highly restricts political freedom in order to regulate almost every aspect of behavior. In this sense ‘freedom’ refers solely to the relation of humans to other humans, and the only infringement on it is coercion by humans.
The concept of political freedom is very closely allied with the concepts of civil liberties and individual rights, which in most democratic societies is characterized by various freedoms which are afforded the legal protection from the state. Some of these freedoms may include (in alphabetical order):
- Four Freedoms a basic formulation of social security, universal human rights, by Franklin Roosevelt
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of association
- Freedom of movement
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of the press
- Freedom of thought
- Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, which is related to freedom of privacy
- Freedom to bear arms
- Scientific freedom
- Academic freedom
- Economic freedom is a term used in economic and policy debates. As with freedom generally, there are various definitions, but no universally accepted concept of economic freedom. One major approach to economic freedom comes from the libertarian tradition emphasizing free markets and private property, while another extends the welfare economics study of individual choice, with greater economic freedom coming from a “larger” (in some technical sense) set of possible choices. Another more philosophical perspective emphasizes its context in distributive justice and basic freedoms of all individuals.
- Today, the term is most commonly associated with a free market viewpoint, and defined as the freedom to produce, trade and consume any goods and services acquired without the use of force, fraud or theft. This is embodied in the rule of law, property rights and freedom of contract, and characterized by external and internal openness of the markets, the protection of property rights and freedom of economic initiative.
- Indices of economic freedom attempt to measure (free market) economic freedom, and empirical studies based on these rankings have found them to be correlated with higher living standards, economic growth, income equality, less corruption and less political violence.
- Other conceptions of economic freedom include freedom from want and the freedom to engage in collective bargaining.
Understanding of immigration
General theories behind immigration
One theory of immigration distinguishes 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. If the value of wages in the new country surpasses the value of wages in one’s native country, he or she may choose to migrate as long as the costs are not too high. Particularly in the 19th century, economic expansion of the U.S. increased immigrant flow, and in effect, nearly 20% of the population was foreign born versus today’s values of 10%, making up a significant amount of the labor force. Poor individuals from less developed countries can have far higher standards of living in developed countries than in their originating countries. The cost of emigration, which includes both the explicit costs, the ticket price, and the implicit cost, lost work time and loss of community ties, also play a major role in the pull of emigrants away from their native country. As transportation technology improved, travel time and costs decreased dramatically between the 18th and early 20th century. Travel across the Atlantic used to take up to 5 weeks in the 1700s, but around the time of the 1900s it took a mere 8 days. When the opportunity cost is lower, the immigration rates tend to be higher. 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 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, Myanmar, and Somalia).
Emigration and immigration are sometimes mandatory in a contract of employment: religious missionaries, and employees of transnational corporations, international non-governmental organizations and the diplomatic service expect, by definition, 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). 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 U.S. states of Florida and Texas).
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 (especially in the instance of a gender imbalance). 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 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 and social 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 behavior 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.)
The politics of immigration have become increasingly associated with other issues, such as national security, terrorism, and in western Europe especially, with the presence of Islam as a new major religion. 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.
Region-specific factors for immigration
As a principle, citizens of one member nation of the European Union are allowed to work in other member nations with little to no restriction on movement. This is aided by the EURES network which brings together the European Commission and the public employment services of the countries belonging to the European Economic Area and Switzerland. For non-EU-citizen permanent residents in the EU, movement between EU-member states is considerably more difficult. After new waves of accession to the European Union, earlier members have often introduced measures to restrict participation in “their” labour markets by citizens of the new EU-member states. For instance, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain each restricted their labour market for up to seven years both in the 2004 and 2007 round of accession.
Due to the European Union’s—in principle—single internal labour market policy, countries such as Italy and the Republic of Ireland that have seen relatively low levels of labour immigration until recently (and which have often sent a significant portion of their population overseas in the past) are now 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—Spain even has two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla) on the African continent, as well as an autonomous community (the Canary Islands) west of North Africa, in the Atlantic—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 states; the latter have responded that Spain has brought the wave of African illegal migrants on itself by granting amnesty to hundreds of thousands of undocumented foreigners.
The United Kingdom, France 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 1990s 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.
Some states, such as Japan, have opted for technological changes to increase profitability (for example, greater automation), and designed immigration laws specifically to prevent immigrants from coming to, and remaining within, the country. However, globalization, as well as low birth rates and an aging work force, has forced Japan to reconsider its immigration policy. Japan’s colonial past has also created considerable number of non-Japanese in Japan. Many of these groups, especially Chinese and Koreans, have faced extreme levels of discrimination in Japan.
In the United States political debate on immigration has flared repeatedly since the US became independent. Some on the far-left of the political spectrum attribute anti-immigration rhetoric to an all-“white”, under-educated and parochial minority of the population, ill-educated about the relative advantages of immigration for the US economy and society. While those on the far-right think that immigration threatens national identity, as well as cheapening labor and increasing dependence on welfare.
See also: Asylum shopping
The term economic migrant refers to someone who has emigrated from one region to another region for the purposes of seeking employment or improved financial position. An economic migrant is distinct from someone who is a refugee fleeing persecution. An economic migrant can be someone from the United States immigrating to the UK or vice versa.
Many countries have immigration and visa restrictions that prohibit a person entering the country for the purposes of gaining work without a valid work visa. Persons who are declared an economic migrant can be refused entry into a country.
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, everyone has the right to leave or enter a country, along with movement within it (internal migration). Some 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. As philosopher and “Open Borders” activist Jacob Appel has written, “Treating human beings differently, simply because they were born on the opposite side of a national boundary, is hard to justify under any mainstream philosophical, religious or ethical theory.”
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 themselves of the legal and protected immigration opportunities offered by wealthy states. This inequality has also been criticized 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 undocumented immigration. The contradictory nature of this policy—which specifically disadvantages the unskilled immigrants while exploiting their labour—has also been criticized 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.