An Overview of Legal and Illegal Immigration

An Overview of Legal and Illegal Immigration

Immigration refers to the movement of persons from one nation or region to another with the purpose of seeking permanent residence. Immigrants leave their countries of origin for a variety of reasons, including employment, economic or social conditions, military conflict and political turmoil.

Historically, nations have imposed restrictions on immigration based on xenophobia -- the fear of alien or "other" cultures -- or to protect political, economic or ethnic dominance. Modern restrictions place more emphasis on the economic and social effects of immigration. The United Nations High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, held in 2006, revealed that 3 percent (191 million) of the world's population is currently living outside their native country. Of this number, one-third migrated from a developing nation to a developed one.

In recent years, the United States Congress has debated immigration reform largely due to concerns about illegal immigration. The case of immigration reform in the United States is unique, in that immigration played a major role in the settlement of the country, and its effects are evident throughout the country's present population. As a result, the United States maintains one of the most open immigration policies in the world.

Alien: In legal terms, a person who is not a citizen or native of the country in which they reside.

Asylum: Official permission to immigrate to a country based on protection from ideological, religious or political persecution. Such entrants are designated as political asylees.

Citizenship: Membership in the political structure of a country, usually the country of one's birth. Many countries legally allow immigrants citizenship (residence and rights) on a permanent basis.

Emigration: The act of leaving one's place of residence to live elsewhere.

Family Unification: Permission to immigrate or remain in a country based on the fact that immediate family members are citizens of that region.

Illegal Alien/Immigrants: An individual who remains in a nation beyond the limits of his or her legally granted time period, or an individual who enters a nation without permission.

Immigration: The act of settling in a country, nation or region to which one is not native.

Migration: The movement of persons from one country or region to another.

Naturalization: The legal process by which citizenship is granted to a person.

Permanent Resident: An individual who is not a citizen but who legally resides in another nation on a permanent or extended basis.

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