Opposition to immigration

Opposition to immigration

Opposition to immigration is present in most nation-states with immigration, and has become a significant political issue in many countries.[1] Immigration in the modern sense refers to movement of people from one nation-state to another, where they are not citizens. It is important to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration in considering opposition to immigration. Illegal immigration is immigration in contravention of a nation's immigration laws, and is a particular problem in many Western nations and Australia.

The principal concerns expressed by those opposed to immigration are: economic costs (job competition and education and social services burdens); negative environmental impact from accelerated population growth; and, in some cases, the distortion of the national identity. In addition, when the immigration is illegal, opposition is focused on the economic and environmental costs and the violation of the receiving nation's law. In cases such as the United States, where illegal immigration since the 1986 amnesty has resulted in an estimated 10-20 million illegal immigrants, the issue of failure of the rule of law itself is implicated.

In countries where the majority of the population is of immigrant descent, such as the United States, opposition to immigration sometimes takes the form of nativism[2] (targeted only at 'first-generation' immigrants).


Major anti-immigration arguments

The national identity of a nation-state is reflected in claims regarding ethnicity: the immigrants fail to assimilate into the original population, and replace its culture with their own. This argument is based on maintaining the rule of the original ethnic group.

National unity arguments emphasise language use and isolation: the immigrants "isolate themselves in their own communities and refuse to learn the local language".

Economic arguments concentrate on competition for employment, and the burdens that many immigrants impose on social welfare systems and public schools. Illegal immigrants are often poor and uneducated, and frequently work in jobs for which income is not reported, thereby returning little to the receiving nation's economy through taxes. Another problem with immigration is that it deprives the countries of origin of badly-needed skilled workers--the "brain drain".

Environmental arguments include the increased consumption of scarce resources and overpopulation.


A sparsely-populated continental nation with a predominantly European population, Australia has long feared being overwhelmed by the heavily-populated Asian countries to its north. The standard policy after 1900 was "White Australia" which encouraged immigration from Britain, was suspicious of immigrants from Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and which was quite hostile to immigrants from Asia or the Pacific islands.[3] After World War II, most Australians agreed that the country must "populate or perish". Immigration brought people from traditional sources such as the British Isles along with, for the first time, large numbers of Southern and Central Europeans. The abolition of the so-called 'White Australia policy' during the early 1970s led to a significant increase in immigration from Asian and other non-European countries.

In the 1996 election Pauline Hanson was elected to the federal seat of Oxley. In her controversial maiden speech to the House of Representatives, she expressed her concern that Australia "was in danger of being swamped by Asians". This message exposed a population deeply divided on the issue of immigration, especially from non-Western countries. Hanson went on to form the One Nation Party, which subsequently won nearly one quarter of the vote in Queensland state elections.[4] The name "One Nation" was meant to signify national unity, in contrast to what Hanson claimed to see as an increasing division in Australian society caused by government policies favouring migrants (multiculturalism) and indigenous Australians.[5]

Some Australians reacted angrily to One Nation, as Hanson was subjected to water balloons filled with urine at public speeches, ridiculed in the media, and received so many death threats she filmed a "good-bye video" in the case of her assassination.[6] She was imprisoned by the government on political corruption charges, which were dropped after her imprisonment, despite receiving no compensation.


Strong immigration is one of the central political issues in many European countries, and increasingly also at European Union level. The anti-immigration perspective is predominantly nationalist and cultural, rather than economic or environmentalist. European nationalists see multiculturalism as threatening the existence of their indigenous cultures. The issue is complicated by the fact that many immigrants in western Europe are poor, working class Muslims from Turkey and Northern Africa. Prominent European opponents of immigration include Jörg Haider, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and the assassinated Pim Fortuyn. In France, the National Front opposes immigration. In the UK the British National Party have made opposition to immigration one of their central policies.[7] Major media, political parties, and a large share of the public see the possibility of anti-immigrant sentiment due to the 2005 civil unrest in France.

Opposition to lhigh levels of legal immigration is associated with many right-wing groups in Europe. Expression of these views is often considered racist and sometimes even a criminal offense under anti-discrimination statutes, and there are frequent calls for stiffer sentences for xenophobia in many European countries and by the European Union.[8]


A January 2004 survey by Spanish newspaper El País showed that the "majority" of Spaniards believe immigration was too high.[9] Small Neo-fascist parties, such as Movimiento Social Español, openly campaign using nationalist or anti-immigrant rhetoric.


Portugal was long a dictatorship, and had little immigration until a sudden influx in the 1970s, as ex-colonists returned. Today there are Lisbon-born, African and Middle Eastern neighborhoods. Rural areas have just recently begun to see many new arrivals. The country has right-wing parties that support curbs in immigration quotas. Any resident of a Portuguese-speaking country is free to live and work in Portugal, and vice-versa. In recent years, the growth of the Portuguese far-right "National Renewal Party", known as PNR, has targeted the immigration and ethnic minorities issues.


The movement for Japanese cultural isolation, sakoku (), arose in Edo Period Japan, in response to the strong influence of Chinese culture. The study of (ancient) Japanese literature and culture was called kokugaku ( "country study").

Japan was an anomaly among states, as it went through post-war industrialization without any major use of immigrant labor (unlike countries such as France and Germany) instead depending more on labor from women and rural sections of the country. However, as Japan headed into the 1980s and the Bubble Economy, there was a shortage of unskilled labor in the nation, and illegal immigrants from East Asia and the subcontinent began to trickle in.[citation needed]

These immigrants were a very visible part of Japanese society, performing the so-called 3K jobs": kitanai (汚い dirty), kiken ( dangerous) and kitsui (きつい hard, tough); jobs that natives with higher skill sets wouldn't take. Despite their illegal status, they were generally tolerated by law enforcement and government, as they fulfilled a significant function in the Japanese economy. Toward the end of the 1980s, however, illegal immigration became a hot button issue, with many Japanese sharply divided about how to address the problem.[citation needed]

Those in favor of cutting off all immigration fell into the sakoku () camp, and those in favor of a less restrictive policy were on the side of kaikoku ( "open country"). Those in favor of sakoku argued that immigration (illegal or otherwise) would be detrimental to Japanese racial homogeneity and also dilute culture as well as promote crime. Kaikoku, on the other hand, wasn't necessarily in favor of immigration, but rather proponents acknowledged that illegal immigrants had arrived and were a viable part of the economy that must be addressed at the risk of eroding human rights further (conditions in factories were poor, and as illegal immigrants were on the periphery of society, they had no protection from the law).[citation needed]

Ultimately, Japan passed the Immigration Control Act in 1990 which opened a side-door to ethnic Japanese (up to the third generation) living in other countries, allowing them to immigrate to Japan for the unspecified purpose of performing unskilled labor; Japan still does not issue visas to anyone but skilled workers. By adding this provision—they must be ethnic Japanese—the government had addressed the sakoku arguments by preserving racial homogeneity (despite the glaring cultural and linguistic differences), but also compromised with those in favor of kaikoku by allowing a legal loophole providing for immigrant unskilled labor. This caused a large influx of Japanese Brazilians, termed Dekasegi.[citation needed]

As of now there has been a push to increase immigration due to the countries faltering economy.[1]


In Mexico, during the first eight months of 2005, more than 120,000 people from Central America were deported to their countries of origin. This is a much higher number than the people deported in the same period in 2002, when only 1 person was deported in the entire year.[10] Many women from Eastern Europe, Asia, United States and Central and South America are offered jobs at table dance establishments in large cities throughout the country, causing the National Institute of Migration (INM) in Mexico to raid strip clubs and deport foreigners who work without the proper documentation.[11]

Mexico has very strict laws pertaining to both illegal and legal immigrants.[12] The Mexican constitution restricts non-citizens or foreign-born persons from participating in politics, holding office, acting as a member of the clergy, or serving on the crews of Mexican-flagged ships or airplanes. Certain legal rights are waived, such as the right to a deportation hearing or other legal motions. In cases of flagrante delicto, any person may make a citizen's arrest on the offender and his accomplices, turning them over without delay to the nearest authorities.

Many immigration restrictionists in the United States have accused the Mexican government of hypocrisy in its immigration policy, noting that while the Government of Mexico and Mexican Americans are demanding looser immigration laws in the United States and oppose the 2010 Arizona Immigration Bill, at the same time Mexico is keeping even tighter restrictions than the Arizona law on immigration into Mexico from Central America and other places.

United States

In the United States, opposition to illegal immigration has a long history, starting in the late 1790s, in reaction to an influx of political refugees from France and Ireland. After passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, opposition receded. Nativism first gained a name and affected politics in mid-19th century United States because of the large inflows of immigrants from cultures that were markedly different from the existing White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture. Nativists objected primarily to Roman Catholics, especially Irish Americans. Nativist movements included the American Party of the mid-19th Century (formed by members of the Know-Nothing movement), the Immigration Restriction League of the early 20th Century, and the anti-Asian movements in the west, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act and the so-called "Gentlemen's Agreement" aimed at the Japanese. Immigration became a major issue again from the 1990s, with burgeoning illegal immigration, particularly in the Southwest. [13] The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 provided an amnesty described as the amnesty to end amnesties was passed in 1986, but had no lasting impact on the flow of illegal immigrants. [14]

Labor unions

The American Federation of Labor (AFL), a coalition of labor unions formed in the 1880s, vigorously opposed unrestricted immigration from Europe for moral, cultural, and racial reasons. The issue unified the workers who feared that an influx of new workers would flood the labor market and lower wages.[15] Nativism was not a factor because upwards of half the union members were themselves immigrants or the sons of immigrants from Ireland, Germany and Britain. However, nativism was a factor when the AFL even more strenuously opposed all immigration from Asia because it represented (to its Euro-American members) an alien culture that could not be assimilated into American society. The AFL intensified its opposition after 1906 and was instrumental in passing immigration restriction bills from the 1890s to the 1920s, such as the 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924, and seeing that they were strictly enforced.[16]

Mink (1986) concludes that the link between the AFL and the Democratic Party rested in part on immigration issues, noting the large corporations, which supported the Republicans, wanted more immigration to augment their labor force.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Joseph Chinyong Liow, "Malaysia's Approachęş to its Illegal Indonesian Migrant Labour Problem: Securitization, Politics, or Catharsis?" Paper for IDSS-FORD WORKSHOP ON NON-TRADITIONAL SECURITY IN ASIA. Singapore, 3–4 September 2004.
  2. ^ John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (1963).
  3. ^ Richard Jensen, "Comparative Nativism: The United States, Canada And Australia, 1880s-1910s," Canadian Issues / Thèmes Canadiens,pring 2009, pp 45–55
  4. ^ "Pauline Hanson's One Nation: Extreme Right, Centre Party or Extreme Left?" Labour History, Nov 2005, Issue 89, pp 101-119
  5. ^ Danny Ben-Moshe, "One Nation and the Australian Far Right," Patterns of Prejudice," Sept 2001, Vol. 35 Issue 3, pp 24-40
  6. ^ Sean Scalmer, "From Contestation to Autonomy: The Staging and Framing of Anti-Hanson Contention," Australian Journal of Politics and History, June 2001, Vol. 47 Issue 2, pp 209-25
  7. ^ BNP call for end to immigration from Muslim nations BBC News, 23 April 2010
  8. ^ Christina Schori Liang, ed. Europe for the Europeans (2007)
  9. ^ "Immigration time-bomb". Expatica. 23 June 2004. http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=83&story_id=8794&name=Immigration+time%2Dbomb. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Detienen en seis meses a 120 mil indocumentados de Centroamérica
  11. ^ http://www.tvazteca.com/hechos/archivos2/2004/10/102327.shtml
  12. ^ American Chronicle | Illegal Alien Amnesty, Guest Workers, International Law and Politics
  13. ^ John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (1955)
  14. ^ http://www.cis.org/articles/2000/ins1986amnesty.html
  15. ^ Catherine Collomp, "Unions, Civics, and National Identity," Labor History, Fall 1988, Vol. 29#4 pp 450-74
  16. ^ A. T. Lane, "American Trade Unions, Mass Immigration and the Literacy Test: 1900-1917," Labor History, Winter 1984, Vol. 25#1 pp 5-25
  17. ^ Gwendolyn Mink, Old Labor and New Immigrants in American Political Development: Union, Party, and State, 1875-1920 (1986).


  • Alexseev, Mikhail A. Immigration Phobia and the Security Dilemma: Russia, Europe, and the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2005). 294 pp.
  • Jensen, Richard. "Comparative Nativism: The United States, Canada And Australia, 1880s-1910s," Canadian Issues / Thèmes Canadiens, Spring 2009, pp 45–55

United States

  • Allerfeldt, Kristofer. Race, Radicalism, Religion, and Restriction: Immigration in the Pacific Northwest, 1890-1924. Praeger, 2003. 235 pp.
  • Anbinder, Tyler. "Nativism and prejudice against immigrants," in A companion to American immigration, ed. by Reed Ueda (2006) pp 177–201 excerpt
  • Barkan, Elliott R. "Return of the Nativists? California Public Opinion and Immigration in the 1980s and 1990s." Social Science History 2003 27(2): 229-283. Issn: 0145-5532 Fulltext: in Project MUSE,
  • Higham, John, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (1955), the standard scholarly history
  • Hueston, Robert Francis. The Catholic Press and Nativism, 1840-1860 (1976)
  • Schrag Peter. Not Fit For Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America (University of California Press; 2010) 256 pages;


  • Mclean, Lorna. "'To Become Part of Us': Ethnicity, Race, Literacy and the Canadian Immigration Act of 1919". Canadian Ethnic Studies 2004 36(2): 1-28. ISSN 0008-3496
  • Palmer, Howard. Patterns of Prejudice: A History of Nativism in Alberta (1992)
  • Robin, Martion. Shades of Right: Nativist and Fascist Politics in Canada, 1920-1940 (University of Toronto Press, 1992);
  • Ward, W. Peter. White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy toward Orientals in British Columbia (1978)

Other countries

  • Betz, Hans-Georg. "Against the 'Green Totalitarianism': Anti-Islamic Nativism in Contemporary Radical Right- Wing Populism in Western Europe," in Christina Schori Liang, ed. Europe for the Europeans (2007)
  • Finzsch, Norbert, and Dietmar Schirmer, eds. Identity and Intolerance: Nationalism, Racism, and Xenophobia in Germany and the United States (2002)
  • Lucassen, Leo. The Immigrant Threat: The Integration of Old and New Migrants in Western Europe since 1850. University of Illinois Press, 2005. 280 pp; ISBN 0-252-07294-4. Examines Irish immigrants in Britain, Polish immigrants in Germany, Italian immigrants in France (before 1940), and (since 1950), Caribbeans in Britain, Turks in Germany, and Algerians in France
  • Liang, Christina Schori, ed. Europe for the Europeans (2007)

External links

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