Opposition to immigration

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Opposition to immigration exists in most states with immigration, and has become a significant political issue in many countries. Immigration in the modern sense refers to movement of people from one state or territory to another state or territory where they are not citizens. Illegal immigration is immigration in contravention of a state's immigration laws. [1]

In the United States, the principal concerns expressed by those opposed to immigration are the perceived effects economic costs (job competition and burdens on education and social services); negative environmental impact from accelerated population growth; increased crime rates, and in the long run, changes in traditional identities and values.[2] In Spain, surveys show the issues that arouse most controversy are, "in descending order, jobs, crime and housing."[3]

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[4] targeted primarily at 'first-generation' immigrants.

Anti-immigration arguments[edit]

Further information: Criticism of multiculturalism

National identity[edit]

Some critics of immigration argue that the presence of immigrants may distort the national identity of the native population. That means that the native population opposes immigration because they fear they may lose their sense of belonging to their own nation, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics.[5]

National identity can be an important factor for social peace in cases where there are intra-national divides. For example, a 2015 study showed that the educational content of Suharto's Indonesia emphasizing the national unity of Indonesia was an important cause of improved inter-ethnic and inter-religious relationships.[6]

Isolation and separation[edit]

If native societies fail to integrate immigrants they quite often blame the immigrants themselves for it: National unity arguments are, for example, if immigrants isolate themselves in their own communities and refuse to learn the local language, this may eventually undermine the national unity, as well as the cultural and religious unity of the native country. As a consequence the immigrants may form ghettos where they live according to their own culture, rather than assimilating to the native culture. They may live in self-organized communities, or parallel societies, with the intent of a reduced or minimal spatial, social and cultural contact with the majority society into which they have immigrated.[7]

Increased competition[edit]

Economic arguments concentrate on competition for employment, and the higher burdens that some groups of immigrants may impose on social welfare systems, health systems, housing and public schools of the native state.[8] For example, Denmark's strict immigration law reform has saved the country 6.7 billion euros compared to previous more permissive approach, according to a 2011 report from the Danish Integration Ministry.[9][10]

Environmental space, quality and resource scarcity[edit]

The following are more an argument against overpopulation than against immigration, but sometimes overpopulation is caused by immigration. Some people think there is a certain size of land needed to provide for a population ("environmental space"), e.g. to provide for the population's consumption, including absorption of waste products.[11] Immigrants, in this logic, such as a new born child, reduce the per capita size of land of the native country. This idea dates back to Robert Malthus who claimed this in a similar way in the early 19th century.

Some are concerned about urban sprawl and congestion, alterations in the wildlife and natural environment of the state, and an expansive carbon footprint due to immigration.[12] Furthermore, some are concerned over a state's scarce resources, dwindling water reserves, energy, pauperized soils and solid waste.[12]


Some opponents of immigration allege that the introduction of disease is a threat.[13][14][15] Others point out that this alleged threat is a myth.[16]

Immigrant crime[edit]

Further information: Immigration and crime

Opponents of immigration often claim that immigrants contribute to higher crime rates. However, research suggests that people tend to overestimate the relationship between immigration and criminality[17][18][19] The academic literature provides mixed findings for the relationship between immigration and crime worldwide, but finds for the United States that immigration either has no impact on the crime rate or that it reduces the crime rate.[20][21][18][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]

Research suggests that the perception that there is a positive causal link between immigration and crime leads to greater support for anti-immigration policies or parties.[29][30][31][32][33] Research also suggests that bigotry and immigrant alienation could exacerbate immigrant criminality and bigotry. For instance, University of California, San Diego political scientist Claire Adida, Stanford University political scientist David Laitin and Sorbonne University economist Marie-Anne Valfort argue "fear-based policies that target groups of people according to their religion or region of origin are counter-productive. Our own research, which explains the failed integration of Muslim immigrants in France, suggests that such policies can feed into a vicious cycle that damages national security. French Islamophobia—a response to cultural difference—has encouraged Muslim immigrants to withdraw from French society, which then feeds back into French Islamophobia, thus further exacerbating Muslims’ alienation, and so on. Indeed, the failure of French security in 2015 was likely due to police tactics that intimidated rather than welcomed the children of immigrants—an approach that makes it hard to obtain crucial information from community members about potential threats."[34][35]

We can also suppose that Immigrant crime due to cultural differences such as religions and beliefs can lead to violent behaviors against European populations. Also, the policies concerning migrants are different across Europe. In Sweden for instance, immigrants are largely well integrated and are nevertheless overly represented in crimes proportional to their population size.

A study of the long-run effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks found that the post-9/11 increase in hate crimes against Muslims decreased assimilation by Muslim immigrants.[36] Controlling for relevant factors, the authors found that "Muslim immigrants living in states with the sharpest increase in hate crimes also exhibit: greater chances of marrying within their own ethnic group; higher fertility; lower female labour force participation; and lower English proficiency."[36]

States that experience terrorist acts on their own soil or against their own citizens are more likely to adopt stricter restrictions on asylum recognition.[37] Individuals who believe that African Americans and Hispanics are more prone to violence are more likely to support capital punishment.[38]

The Dillingham Commission singled out immigrants from Southern Europe for their involvement in violent crime (even though the data did not support its conclusions).[39] The Commission's overall findings provided the rationale for sweeping 1920s immigration reduction acts, including the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which favored immigration from northern and western Europe by restricting the annual number of immigrants from any given country to 3 percent of the total number of people from that country living in the United States in 1910. The movement for immigration restriction that the Dillingham Commission helped to stimulate culminated in the National Origins Formula, part of the Immigration Act of 1924, which capped national immigration at 150,000 annually and completely barred immigration from Asia.[40]

Military unity[edit]

Some concerns regarding immigration can be found in perceived military loyalty, especially if the country of emigration becomes involved in a war with the country of immigration.[1] Particularly if a country finds itself in the need of drafting.

Dangerous journeys[edit]

Many people make dangerous migration journeys[41][42][43][44][45] on which many have died.[46][47][48] Harshly restricting immigration and making these restrictions known to potential emigrants may prevent them from taking such dangerous journeys.[49][better source needed]

Import of culture[edit]

Further information: Islamization and Cultural conflict

Immigrants bring their culture with them.[50][51][52][53][54] The immigrants' thinking, their norms, practices, customs and values shape, extend and influence the native country's culture (Leitkultur). Some such extensions and influences might not be desired by parts of the native population, for reasons that may include less civilised cultural practices, restrictions as well as collisions with the native country's norms, laws and values in general.[55][56][57][58]

Welfare costs[edit]

Opponents of immigration often state that immigrants have a net negative effect on public coffers mainly due to the provisioning of medical care and welfare.[59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66]

Damage to migrants' home countries[edit]

The emigration of highly skilled or well-educated individuals may hurt their home countries - which could otherwise benefit from them and build up their economy and improve their social and political system (i.e. Brain drain).[67] Reasons for emigrants to leave their country of origin may include the country's lack of scientific development, technological and innovative capability. These countries can only with difficulties retain or to recover the human capital that they have generated.[68] Large numbers of emigrants may weaken their country of origin, by decreasing its population, level of production, and economic spending.[69]

No solution to underlying problems[edit]

Immigration may be the outcome of problems in the migrants' countries of origin. Open immigration policies and efforts do not address these problems. However, just keeping borders closed does not address them either.

Jeanne Park of the Council on Foreign Relations recommends European leaders to address the root causes of migration such as helping to broker an end to Syria's civil war, restoring stability to Libya, and upping aid to sub-Saharan Africa. According to her barring a political solution to these regional crises, Europe will continue to struggle with migrant inflows.[70] Concerning the migratory and refugee movements in and from the Horn of Africa Günther Schröder notes that greater efforts are needed to deal with its causes.[71] A report by the German Caritasverband states that only a long-term strategy that differentiates between combating the causes for migration in the countries of origin and the development of an EU migration policy will be able to find solutions.[72] Responding to the root causes of illegal migration flows involves cooperation with third countries, including migrants' countries of origin and transit and might manifest itself in conflict prevention / peacekeeping and state building.[73] It has been suggested that safe havens be created within the country of origin.[74] It can be argued that immigration means that people "flee" of their country's problems instead of organizing, building up pressure, being involved in constructive foreign aid programs or otherwise addressing them.[citation needed]


Immigration policy is multidimensional, and hence the supporters and opponents of different types of immigration policy vary.[75]

Level of education[edit]

A 2016 study published in the European Economic Review found, on the basis of European survey data in the period 2002-2012, that "higher levels of education lead to a more positive reported attitude toward immigrants".[76] The authors suggest that this is explained by weaker economic competition between immigrants and educated natives, a higher aversion to discrimination among the educated, and a greater belief in the positive effects of immigration among the educated.[76] A 2013 study in the American Journal of Political Science lends some support to the economic competition theory, as highly educated Americans who exhibit lower levels of xenophobia tend to support reductions in the number of highly skilled immigrants.[77]

Age, country of origin, and gender[edit]

A May 2015 study by Statistiska Centralbyrån in Sweden found that the anti-immigration party Sverigedemokraterna (SD) was uniformly supported across all age groups. Perhaps surprisingly, there was also no difference in support for the party between foreign-born immigrants and native Swedes. Men and individuals with low to intermediate levels of education were found to be more supportive of the party than women and individuals with a higher education level (see also Level of education above).[78]

Opposition to immigration by country or region[edit]


The impact of Europeans was profoundly disruptive to Aboriginal life and, though the extent of violence is debated, there was considerable conflict on the frontier. At the same time, some settlers were quite aware they were usurping the Aborigines place in Australia. In 1845, settler Charles Griffiths sought to justify this, writing; "The question comes to this; which has the better right – the savage, born in a country, which he runs over but can scarcely be said to occupy ... or the civilized man, who comes to introduce into this ... unproductive country, the industry which supports life." Many events illustrate violence and resistance as Aborigines sought to protect their lands from invasion and as settlers and pastoralists attempted to establish their presence. In May 1804, at Risdon Cove, Van Diemen's Land, perhaps 60 Aborigines were killed when they approached the town.

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.[79] 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 belief that Australia "was in danger of being swamped by Asians". Hanson went on to form the One Nation Party, which initially won nearly one quarter of the vote in Queensland state elections before entering a period of decline due to internal disputes.[80] 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.[81]

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.[82] She was imprisoned by the government on political corruption charges, which were dropped after her imprisonment. In recent years the rise of less extreme parties such as the Australian Liberty alliance and groups such as the United Patriot Front has seen anti immigration sentiments become mainstream.


Opposition to high levels of legal immigration has been associated with certain right-wing parties in the EU. The issue flared up with the European migrant crisis in 2015 with large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and Africa making dangerous trips to Europe and many deaths en route. With high levels of unemployment and partly unassimilated non-European immigrant populations already within the EU, parties opposed to immigration have improved their position in polls and elections. Right-wing parties critical to immigration have entered the government in Austria, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Slovakia, and have become major factors in English, Swedish, German and French politics.[83]

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, cultural and economic. A new index measuring the level of perceived threat from immigrants has been recently proposed and applied to a data set covering 47 European countries and regions.[84] The results show that Malta and Cyprus have the strongest perception of socio-economic threat from immigrants, followed by Austria, Great Britain (in particular England), Northern Ireland and Hungary, and that the countries/regions with the weakest perception of threat are Armenia, Sweden, Romania and Northern Cyprus. European nationalists see unassimilated immigrants as threatening their historic cultures and a violation of their rights of a land for their own peoples. The fears are compounded the fact that many immigrants in western Europe are poor, working class Muslims from the Middle East and Northern Africa. Prominent European opponents of immigration include Jean-Marie Le Pen, Thilo Sarrazin, Fjordman, the late Jörg Haider and the assassinated Pim Fortuyn. In France, the National Front opposes immigration.[85] In the 1988 elections, 75% of supporters of its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen believed France has too many immigrants (as opposed to 35% of all voters.)[86]


Further information: PEGIDA and Alternative für Deutschland


A January 2004 survey by Spanish newspaper El País showed that the "majority" of Spaniards believe immigration was too high.[87] Small Neo-fascist parties, such as Movimiento Social Español, openly campaign using nationalist or anti-immigrant rhetoric. More recently the government has recognized the positive economic contributions of immigration and has provided permanent channels for social integration of illegal immigrants.[88]


Portugal had little immigration until a sudden influx in the 1970s, as ex-colonists returned. Today there are Lisbon-born Africans. Rural areas have just recently begun to see many new arrivals. The country has one far-right party that supports curbs in immigration. 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 after years of growing support—0.09% 4,712 2002, 0.16% 9,374 2005, 0.20% 11,503 2009, 0.31% 17,548 2011—managed 0.50% 27,269 of the electorate in the 2015

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK the British National Party made opposition to immigration one of their central policies in the 2010 general election.[89] The anti-mass-immigration party, UKIP, have proposed setting up a Migration Control Commission, tasked with bringing down net migration.[90] The Conservative Party pledged to bring immigration from the EU and rest of the world down to the "tens of thousands", with a range of welfare restrictions and housing restrictions.[90]

The vote for the UK to leave the EU was successful in Britain, with a number of commentators suggesting that populist concern over immigration from the EU was a major feature of the public debate.[91] British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned over the vote. In 2006, Cameron dismissed UKIP supporters as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly" though later conceded to hold a vote on leaving the EU, due in part to the Conservative party losing votes to UKIP.[citation needed]



India has anti-immigrant parties at the state level. The most common anti-immigrant parties are there in the state of Maharashtra, where the two main anti-immigrant parties are Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Both parties share the idea of migrants from North India stealing jobs from the native Marathi people in Maharashtra. They even have a history of attacking immigrants, who they accuse of being involved in crimes around Mumbai. Shiv Sena also has a history of threatening the Pakistani cricket team from coming to Mumbai and also threatening Australian cricket players in the Indian Premier League cricket competition following the racist attacks on India students in Australia in 2009.

Even in the last few decades, there has been a rise in the anti-Immigrant attitudes in the North East Indian states like Assam, which has received illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Riots have occurred between the native tribes of Assam who are Hindus and the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, who are predominantly Muslims.


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

As of now there has been a push to increase immigration due to the country's faltering economy.[92]



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.[93] Many women from countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (most of former USSR), Asia 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.[94]

Mexico has very strict laws pertaining to both illegal and legal immigrants.[95] 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 imposing even tighter restrictions on immigration into Mexico from Central America and other places than the Arizona law.

United States[edit]

Donald Trump campaigned for president in 2016 promising to build a wall on the border of Mexico and the United States "as the centerpiece of his immigration plan".[96]
Anti-illegal immigrant car sticker in Colorado

In the United States, opposition to immigration has a long history, starting in the late 1790s, in reaction to an influx of political refugees from France and Ireland. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 restricted the rights of immigrants. Nativism first gained a name and affected politics in the mid-19th century United States because of the large inflows of immigrants from cultures that were markedly different from the existing 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" which was aimed at the Japanese. Major restrictions became law in the 1920s and sharply cut the inflow until 1965, when they ended.[4] The federal government took charge of finding and deporting illegal aliens, which it still does.[97]

Immigration again became a major issue from the 1990s onward, with burgeoning illegal immigration, particularly by Mexicans crossing the Southern border, and others who overstayed their visitor visas.The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 provided an amnesty which was described as the amnesty to end all amnesties but it had no lasting impact on the flow of illegal immigrants.[98]

By 2014, the Tea Party movement narrowed its focus away from economic issues, spending and Obamacare to President Barack Obama's immigration policies. They see his immigration policies as threatening to transform American society. They tried but failed to defeat leading Republicans who supported immigration programs, such as Senator John McCain. A typical slogan appeared in the Tea Party Tribune: “Amnesty for Millions, Tyranny for All.” The New York Times reported:

What started five years ago as a groundswell of conservatives committed to curtailing the reach of the federal government, cutting the deficit and countering the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party has become a movement largely against immigration overhaul. The politicians, intellectual leaders and activists who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement have redirected their energy from fiscal austerity and small government to stopping any changes that would legitimize people who are here illegally, either through granting them citizenship or legal status.[99]

As of 2014, there were over 42.4 million immigrants living in the United States. This was about 13.3% of the entire United States population at that time.[100]

Labor unions[edit]

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.[101] 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.[102]

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.[103]


South Africa[edit]

Several periods of violent riots against migrants have occurred in South Africa in the past decade, some resulting in fatalities. Countries from which the migrants targeted originated include Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.[104][105]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

United States[edit]


Other countries[edit]

  • Betz, Hans-Georg (2007), "Against the 'Green Totalitarianism': Anti-Islamic nativism in contemporary radical right-wing populism in Western Europe", in Schori Liang, Christina, Europe for the Europeans the foreign and security policy of the populist radical right, Aldershot, England Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, pp. 33–54, ISBN 9780754686255. 
  • Finzsch, Norbert; Schirmer, Dietmar, eds. (1998). Identity and intolerance : nationalism, racism, and xenophobia in Germany and the United States. Washington, D.C. Cambridge: German Historical Institute Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521591584. 
  • Lucassen, Leo (2005). The immigrant threat: the integration of old and new migrants in western Europe since 1850. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252072949.  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.
  • Schori Liang, Christina, ed. (2007). Europe for the Europeans the foreign and security policy of the populist radical right. Aldershot, England Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate. ISBN 9780754686255.