How to Define Immigrants

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The term “immigrant” is used to describe people who move from their country of birth to another to live there. It is important to define this group clearly, as they are an integral part of societies and economies around the world. In the past, there were many reasons to immigrate, including seeking a better life, joining family members, finding work, and escaping unsafe or dangerous conditions. Today, the main reason people choose to immigrate is for economic opportunities.

International migration has moved to center stage in political, policy, and public discussions in many countries. As the public debate over immigration heats up, it is important to have a clear understanding of who immigrants are and what they contribute.

A key aspect of the immigrant experience is working hard to build a future in the United States. Most immigrants find that their financial situation and educational opportunities are better than in their country of origin. In fact, three quarters of immigrants say that their standard of living is better than the average U.S.-born adult’s. Many also expect their children to do even better.

At the same time, a significant number of immigrants face serious challenges in their day-to-day lives, particularly when it comes to finances and dealing with discrimination on the job and in their communities. Moreover, a large share of immigrants, especially those who are likely undocumented, report fear and confusion about U.S. immigration laws and policies.

The vast majority of immigrants are lawful residents, and some become citizens. However, a growing share of the immigrant population is undocumented. This group includes many young people who met the requirements of Obama’s Dream Act. It also includes those who were brought to the United States as children, often with limited or no legal documentation.

While some may argue that it is unfair to use the term “illegal immigrant” to refer to these people, others see value in making a distinction between those who have entered a country legally and those who broke the law in some way to get there. For example, some style guides, external link have recommended that the word “illegal” be reserved for those who enter a country without a visa or otherwise violate immigration laws.

Some of the other terms that have been used to describe this group include exile, émigré, and refugees. While these terms have been historically used to convey negative connotations, they are being reconsidered in light of the positive contributions that this group is making. Nevertheless, it is important to note that, no matter what name they are called, most international migrants still are immigrants and will always be so. They have left the country of their birth to seek a new life and contribute to the economy, culture, and social fabric of their new home. The numbers of such individuals worldwide are staggering, but they are a vital part of the global human story. It is a story that requires empathy and understanding, not division and hate.