Immigration status

Topic: Demographic Structure Of Society

Immigration is the movement of people internationally to different countries which they are not native to for settlement.

Patterns of immigration

Immigration brings with it many benefits and drawbacks. For example in America, there has been a large influx of immigrants over the past century. This has lead to a stronger workforce and improvements for the migrant’s home country in the form of economic benefits of having a reduced population reducing the dependency on state institutions. But it can equally cause difficulties. The exploitation of immigrants is common in industrialized nations resulting in inequality in the treatment of migrant workers. Equally, migrants often find themselves all moving to a similar geographic location which can lead to a strain on the social institutions that are present in that country/geography and for the home country the movement of skilled workers can lead to a reduction in the number of skilled laborers and staff shortages in key industries.

When examining this from the perspective of race and ethnicity often migrants are discriminated against in their host/home country. For example, in the home country, a race may face persecution because of their religious or cultural identity but in the host country they may face difficulties in adapting to different cultural norms and as a result, are discriminated against. Race and ethnicity can be also be found to bias a countries immigration policy, with the favourable treatment of different races based on the preferences of the host country. In 1986 the US passed an act to ban the employment of illegal migrants, but at the same time granted an amnesty to all current illegal immigrants already in the US to give them a residential status. It can also be seen in the EU where discrimination is present amongst countries. Those in the EU can live and work in any member country but those outside of the EU have to pass a series of checks to obtain a work permit.

In the history of the United States there is some key time that immigration has greatly affected and changed the population:

  • Immigration to the United States from Britain, Ireland, Germany, and other parts of western Europe increased beginning in the 1830s attracted by the cheap farmland available in the United States
  • The California gold rush of 1849 rapidly expanded the population of the new territory, attracting thousands of immigrants from Latin America, China, Australia, and Europe.
  • The first wave of Irish immigration, which occurred before the American Revolution, consisted mostly of Protestants from Ulster who settled in the American interior.
  • The second wave of Irish Catholic immigration began in the 1840s following the potato famine in Ireland. By 1890, two of every five Irish-born people were living abroad.
  • The largest flow of German immigration to America occurred between 1820 and World War I, during which time nearly six million Germans immigrated to the United States. Roughly half of the German immigrants settled in cities and became skilled workers and entrepreneurs, while the other half established large farms in the Midwest.
  • In more recent times immigration has been from mainly Mexico and developing countries in Asia spurred by economic migration

Intersections of race and ethnicity 

Race and ethnicity due to immigration have often reached intersections. They can overlap due to immigration. For example, to be considered caucasian a person is identified as having white skin but this label can be extended from those of different heritages from greek to Irish. Another example is if a person is black they would identify with this as their racial demographic but their nationality could be french or german and this would overlap with their identity and demographic.


Practice Questions


Khan Academy


MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Section Bank P/S Section Question 47


Key Points

• Immigration is the movement of people over borders internationally from a home country to a host country where they intend to permanently reside

• Immigration has a number of benefits and drawbacks for both the home and host country

• Immigration patterns have changed a number of times in the US over the past 200 years driven by different historical and economical events

Key Terms

Home country: the country in which a person was born and usually raised

Immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country

Race: a large group of people distinguished from others on the basis of a common heritage or common physical characteristics, such as skin color and hair type.

Immigration: the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country

Ethnicity: the identity of a group of people having common racial, national, religious, or cultural origins.

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