|A form of migration that occurs when people move from one nation-state to another. Immigrants change their permanent dwelling place and are therefore distinct from sojourners, who relocate temporarily, usually for employment-related reasons; immigrants also move voluntarily and are therefore distinct from refugees, who are forced to leave their homes because of persecution (see also Gastarbeiter). When immigrants settle in a new country without the knowledge and approval of the government in power, they are called \'undocumented\', \'illegal\', or \'unrecorded\' immigrants. Millions of people immigrate each year, and this form of migration is one of the most significant causes of social change in the world today (Clark, 1986; Sasson, 1996).
There have been several episodes of mass migration in history, but the decades following the Second World War have seen the largest population movements of all time. Immigration, in the sense the term is used today, began after the creation of nation-states and, until recently, was closely associated with colonization (cf. colonialism). For example, British subjects migrated to the colonies and created settler societies; after colonies gained independence this movement continued in the form of immigration. Others, at first mainly from European countries, joined them and many former colonies, such as Australia, Canada, and the US, consider themselves \'immigrant societies\' in the sense that the overwhelming majority of their citizens are either immigrants themselves or the descendants of immigrants. Until recently, virtually all immigrants migrated toward what they believed to be greater economic opportunities. These historic patterns have changed in the last 25 years, in two key ways. First, both source and destination regions have multiplied, and immigration now is more global in scope than at any time in the past (Castles and Miller, 1993). Second, in marked contrast to past periods, a small but highly significant number of today\'s immigrants are wealthy. These \'designer immigrants\' are especially concerned with political issues (i.e. stability) and lifestyle. They are sought by many countries for their entrepreneurial skill and capital, and have significantly changed the way immigrants are perceived in the places they settle (Mitchell, 1993; Skeldon, 1994).
Immigrants, wherever they settle, are usually culturally different from their receiver societies. Often, they are \'visible minorities\' (i.e. of a different skin colour than the dominant population). The reception of immigrants varies widely between countries but three types of responses are typical: isolation, assimilation, and pluralism. Some societies believe that immigrants are necessary to fulfil certain functions â€” e.g. when they face labour shortages â€” but that they should remain separate from the dominant population and, ideally, leave when no longer needed. This was the case, for example, in many western countries in the period following the Second World War, and many believe it is true of Japan today. Countries that ascribe to this view make it difficult for immigrants to acquire full legal rights and, especially, citizenship. Others, such as France and, to a more limited extent, the US, expect immigrants to conform, or assimilate, to a predefined national culture. In this case, full legal rights and citizenship are often granted in stages, in step with the assimilation process. Finally, a few countries, notably Australia and Canada, have enacted legislation enshrining the concept of multiculturalism, a policy that fosters the co-existence of many forms of cultural expression. These countries typically allow immigrants to become citizens quickly and, acknowledging the complexities of identity, allow individuals to hold dual or multiple legal citizenship(s). Note, though, that the differences between these policies are easily overstated, and that countries rarely follow single immigration policies that are applied to all groups equally.
Traditionally, immigration has been analysed in straightforward terms as a push-pull process: people leave a country to escape problems, such as poverty or political conflict, and are drawn to particular places that offer them a better life. In this conception, people are treated as rational individuals who are willing to cast aside their old identities and loyalties and embrace new ones if they believe it is to their advantage. Settlement is seen as a unidirectional, progressive process where immigrants eventually become indistinguishable from the society that receives them â€” they become assimilated. This interpretation arose out of the research of the Chicago school in the early twentieth century and continues to affect immigration research. However, recent work, drawing on different understandings of history, culture and identity, offers an alternate perspective, even in countries such as the United States where assimilation has been assumed. First, migration is seen as a collective process that occurs sequentially and in both directions. Immigrants rarely sever the links between their previous and present places and social contacts, and life in the new country is linked to life in the old (cf. chain migration). As a result, immigrant culture becomes a melange of practices, and identities are in flux rather than fixed, or in an inexorable progression from old to new. More and more, immigration studies are adopting the view of cultures as diasporic â€” as scattered but connected across vast distances. This realization has led to the concept of transnationalism, the idea that many people live in societies that stretch across â€” and perhaps even transcend â€” national boundaries (see Appadurai, 1996; Van Hear, 1998).
These new understandings of the immigration process are particularly salient given the importance of immigrants in (re)defining contemporary economic, political and cultural systems. For example, within the next five years non-white people will form the majority of the population in the state of California, the first time in history where a white society has voluntarily become a minority in a territory under its control (Maharidge, 1996). Similar cultural transformations are occurring in large cities throughout the western world, which are becoming more multi-ethnic and polyglot than ever before (for example, nearly 200 languages are spoken in the area served by the municipal government of Toronto). There are few studies of the cultural dynamics of living in multi-ethnic cities (though see Jacobs, 1996 and Germain, 1997), but it is clear that these new contexts raise fundamental questions about the meaning of equity, public participation, and even citizenship itself (Jacobson, 1996).Â (DH)
References Appadurai, A. 1996: Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Â Clark, W.A.V. 1986: Human migration. Beverly Hills: Sage.Â Castles, S. and Miller, M.J. 1993: The age of migration: international population movements in the modern world. London: Macmillan.Â Germain, A. 1997: MontrÃ©al: an experiment in cosmopolitanism within a dual society. Utrecht: European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations (ERCOMER).Â Jacobs, J.M. 1996: The edge of empire: postcolonialism and the city. London: Routledge.Â Jacobson, D. 1996: Rights across borders: immigration and the decline of citizenship. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.Â Maharidge, D. 1996: The coming white minority: California\'s eruptions and America\'s future. New York: Times Books.Â Mitchell, K. 1993: Multiculturalism, or the united colours of capitalism. Antipode 29: 263-94.Â Sasson, S. 1996: Losing control? sovereignty in an age of globalization. New York: Columbia University Press.Â Skeldon, R. 1994: Reluctant exiles?: migration from Hong Kong and the new overseas Chinese. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.Â Van Hear, N. 1998: New diasporas: the mass exodus, dispersal and regrouping of migrant communities. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Suggested Reading Burnley, I., Murphy, P. and Fagan, R. 1997: Immigration and Australian cities. Sydney: The Federation Press.Â Richmond, A.H. 1994: Global apartheid: refugees, racism, and the new world order. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Â Segal, A. 1993: An atlas of international migration. New Providence, NJ: Hans Zell Publishers.