Illegal immigration

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Illegal immigration is the migration of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country. Many countries have millions of illegal immigrants.[1] Immigration, including illegal immigration, is overwhelmingly upward, from a poorer to a richer country.[2] Historically, illegal immigrants tended not to be among the poorest of their populations, though this changes in times of great crisis.

Illegal immigration helps contribute to the formation of a multicultural society (often through illegal chain migration), with many different ethnic groups occupying overlapping areas, as is happening in California. This may cause social conflicts due to fundamentally different values or desires, reduced trust, and the inability to communicate. Mainstream media publications may de-emphasize such tensions due to forms of race censorship, such as the alleged "cover-up" of black on white violence practiced by urban youths who may be non-Asian minorities.

Another form of generally discouraged or prohibited speech involves the scientific field of human biodiversity or HBD, which claims that different racial groups have different average cognitive strengths and traits. Such talk is considered politically incorrect, as it is often used to oppose non-white illegal immigration. The cultural consensus is generally sympathetic to illegal immigrants; both out of a genuine belief in human cognitive equality, out of one-world idealism, and allegedly to import future left-wing voters.

By the late 2010s, the wave of non-white male surplus immigration into Europe was driven by the illegal immigration of economic or social refugees, most of whom entered without valid travel documents. Such illegal immigrants have been disparagingly called "immivaders", "rapefugees", or fighting age migrants by opponents, while their mainstream liberal or conservative supporters describe them sympathetically. Right-wing opponents use HBD theories to make the claim that illegal immigration should actually be considered part of a population replacement process, and a step toward white genocide, albeit mostly non-violent. European governments have responded by increasingly criminalizing such speech.


When potential immigrants believe that the chances/benefits of successfully migrating are greater than the risks/costs, illegal immigration becomes an option. The benefits taken into account include not only expected improvements in income and living conditions, but also expectations in relation to potential future residential permits,[3] where illegal immigrants are given a path to naturalization or citizenship.[4] The costs may include restrictions on living as an illegal immigrant in the destination country, leaving family and ways of life behind, the experience of visible or verbal disdain by native-born residents in the host country, and the probability of being detained and resulting sanctions.[5]


There have been campaigns to discourage the use of the term 'illegal immigrant' in many countries since 2007, generally based on the argument that the act of immigration may be illegal in some cases, but the people themselves are not illegal. In the United States, a "Drop the I-Word" campaign was launched in 2010 to advocate the use of terms such as "undocumented immigrants" or "unauthorized immigrants" to refer to the foreign nationals who reside in a country illegally.[6]

News associations that have discontinued or discourage the use of the adjective "illegal" to describe people include the US Associated Press,[7] UK Press Association, European Journalism Observatory,[8] European Journalism Centre,[9] Association of European Journalists, Australian Press Council,[10] and Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.[11]

In contrast, in some contexts the term "illegal immigrants" is shortened to "illegals".[12][13][14][15]

Other terms that do not describe people directly, are not necessarily affected by this argument. For example, Associated Press still uses the term "illegal immigration" to an action of entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law.

Economic models of illegal immigration

There are multiple models that explain illegal immigration from the perspective of the potential immigrants. However, there are fewer models that describe why countries choose to designate certain forms of immigration as illegal.[citation needed]

Neoclassical model

The neoclassical economic model looks only at the probability of success in immigrating and finding employment, and the increase in real income that can be expected. This explanation would account for the economies of the two states, including how much of a "pull" the destination country has in terms of better-paying jobs and improvements in quality of life. It also describes a "push" that comes from negative conditions in the home country like lack of employment or economic mobility.

Neoclassical theory posits that factors such as geographic proximity, border enforcement, probability and consequences of arrest, ease of illegal employment, and chances of future legal status govern the likelihood of "successful" illegal immigration.[16] This model also assumes that illegal workers tend to add to, and compete with, the receiving countries' pool of unskilled laborers. Illegal workers in this model find employment by accepting lower wages than native-born workers, sometimes below the minimum wage and "off-the-books." Economist George Borjas supports aspects of this model, calculating that real wages of US workers without a high school degree declined by 9% from 1980–2000 due to competition from illegal immigrants.[17]

Large-scale economic evidence supports neoclassical theory, as may be seen in the long-term correlation of relative wages and unemployment with illegal immigration from Mexico to the US. However, migration scholars such as Gordon Hanson and Douglas Massey have criticized the model for being oversimplified and not accounting for contradictory evidence, such as low net illegal immigration from Mexico to the US before the 1980s despite significant economic disparity.[16] Numerous refinements have been suggested to account for other factors, as seen below.

Trade liberalization

In recent years, developing states have pursued the benefits of globalization by adopting measures to liberalize trade. But rapid opening of domestic markets may lead to displacement of large numbers of agricultural or unskilled workers, who are more likely to seek employment and a higher quality of life by illegal immigration. This is a frequently cited argument to explain how the North American Free Trade Agreement may have impoverished Mexican farmers who were unable to compete with the higher productivity of US subsidized agriculture, especially for corn. NAFTA may have also unexpectedly raised educational requirements for industrial jobs in Mexico, since the new maquiladoras produced export products requiring skills and education that many unskilled workers did not have.[18][dubious ]

Structural demand in developed states

Douglas Massey argues that a bifurcating labor market in so called developed countries creates a structural demand for unskilled immigrant labor to fill undesirable jobs that native-born citizens do not seek, regardless of wages.[19] He postulates that postindustrial economies have a widening gap between well-paying, white-collar jobs that require ever higher levels of education ("human capital"), for which native-born citizens and legal immigrants can qualify, and bottom-tier jobs that are stigmatized and require no education. These "underclass" jobs include harvesting crops, unskilled labor in landscaping and construction, house-cleaning, and maid and busboy work in hotels and restaurants, all of which have a disproportionate number of illegal immigrants. Research indicates that the advantage to firms from employing illegal immigrants increases as more firms in the industry do so, decreases with the skill level of the firm's workers, increases with the breadth of a firm's market, and increases with the labor intensity of the firm's production process.[20]

Since the decline of middle-class blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and industry, younger native-born generations have acquired higher education. The majority of new blue-collar jobs qualify as Massey's "underclass" work, and suffer from unreliability, subservient roles and, critically, a lack of potential for advancement. Entry-level white-collar and service jobs offer advancement opportunities for people with work permits and citizenship.

In a developed country like the US, only 12% of the labor force has less than a high school education. Illegal immigrants are believed to have lower levels of education, and it has been reported that about 70% of illegal workers in the US from Mexico lack a high school degree.[16] Even "underclass" jobs have higher relative wages than those in home countries. Since many illegal immigrants often anticipate working only temporarily in the destination country, the lack of opportunity for advancement is seen by many as less of a problem. Some support for this claim can be seen in a Pew Hispanic Center poll of over 3,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico in the US, which found that 79% would voluntarily join a temporary worker program that allowed them to work legally for several years but then required them to leave.[21]

The structural demand theory posits that willingness to take undesirable jobs is what gives illegal immigrants their employment.[22] Structural demand theory argues that cases like this show that there is no direct competition between illegal immigrants and native-born workers. This is the concept that illegal immigrants "take jobs that no one else wants." Massey argues that this has certain policy implications, as it may refute claims that illegal immigrants are "lowering wages" or stealing jobs from native-born workers.[19]


While economic models do look at relative wealth and income between home and destination countries, they do not necessarily imply that illegal immigrants are always impoverished by standards of the home country. The poorest classes in a developing country may lack the resources needed to mount an attempt to cross illegally, or the connections to friends or family already in the destination country. Studies from the Pew Hispanic Center have shown that the education and wage levels of illegal Mexican immigrants in the US are around the median for Mexico, and that having family who have immigrated or being from a community with many immigrants is a much better predictor of one's choice to immigrate.[21]

Other examples do show that increases in poverty, especially when associated with immediate crises, can increase the likelihood of illegal migration. The 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, subsequent to the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), was associated with widespread poverty and a lower valuation for the peso relative to the dollar.[18] It also marked the start of a massive swell in Mexican immigration, in which net illegal migration to the US increased every year from the mid-1990s until the mid-2000s.

There are also examples where natural disasters and overpopulation can amplify poverty-driven migration flows.[23]


Population growth that exceeds the carrying capacity of an area or environment results in overpopulation.[24] Spikes in human population can cause problems such as pollution, water crisis,[25][26] and poverty.[27][28] World population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to an estimated 7 billion today. In Mexico alone, population has grown from 13.6 million in 1900 to 107 million in 2007.[29] Virginia Abernethy notes that immigration is a road that provides a "relief valve" to overpopulation that stops a population from addressing the consequences of its overpopulation and that exports this overpopulation to another location or country.[30]

In 2000, the United Nations estimated that the world's population was growing at the rate of 1.14% (or about 75 million people) per year. According to data from the CIA's World Factbook, the world human population currently increases by 145 every minute.[31] The United States Census Bureau issued a revised forecast for world population that increased its projection for the year 2050 to above 9.4 billion people, up from 9.1 billion people. There are a billion more added every 12 years. Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions.[32]

Family reunification

Some illegal immigrants seek to live with loved ones, such as a spouse or other family members.[33][34][35] Family reunification visas may be applied for by legal residents or naturalized citizens to bring their family members into a destination state legally, but these visas may be limited in number and subject to yearly quotas. This may force their family members to enter illegally to reunify. From studying Mexican migration patterns, Douglas Massey finds that the likelihood that a Mexican national will emigrate illegally to the US increases dramatically if they have one or more family members already residing in the United States, legally or illegally.[19]

Due to inability to marry, same-sex couples in which one member has an expiring visa may face an "unpalatable choice between leaving and living with the person they love in violation of U.S. immigration laws".[36]

Wars and asylum

Illegal immigration may be prompted by the desire to escape civil war or repression in the country of origin. Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, and genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows – to escape dictatorship for instance.

The status of "illegal immigrant" may coincide with or be replaced by the status of "asylum seeker" for emigrants who have escaped a war or repression and have unlawfully crossed into another state. Asylum seekers are generally not considered to be illegal immigrants unless they remain in a country after they are determined not to have valid reasons to receive asylum. If they are recognized as "legitimate" asylees by the destination state, they will then gain status. However, there may be numerous potential asylums in a destination state who are unwilling to apply or have been denied asylum status, and hence are categorized as "illegal immigrants" and may be subject to punishment or deportation. However, Article 31 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees prohibits the Contracting States from imposing penalties on refugees for their illegal enter or presence, who come directly from a territory where their life or freedom are threatened. There are numerous cases of mass emigration from poor or war-stricken states. These include examples from Africa,[37] Colombia, and El Salvador.

After decades of armed conflict, roughly one of every 10 Colombians now lives abroad.[38] For example, Colombians emigrating to Spain have "grown exponentially, from a little over 7,000 in 1993 to more than 80,000 in 2002 and 244,000 in 2003."[39] According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate that Colombia is the fourth-leading source country of illegal immigration to the United States. According to its estimates, the number of illegal Colombian residents in the United States almost tripled from 51,000 in 1990 to 141,000 in 2000.[40] According to the US Census Bureau, the number of people born in Colombia living in the United States in 2013 was about 680,000.[41] El Salvador is another country which experienced substantial emigration as a result of civil war and repression. The largest per-capita source of immigrants to the United States comes from El Salvador. In 2013, there were about 1.25 million people born in El Salvador living in the United States,[41] equal to about one-fifth the current population of El Salvador.

Deprivation of citizenship

In a 2012 news story, the CSM reported, "The estimated 750,000 Rohingya, one of the most miserable and oppressed minorities in the world, are deeply resentful of their almost complete absence of civil rights in Myanmar. In 1982, the military junta stripped the Rohingya of their Myanmar citizenship, classing them as undocumented immigrants and rendering them stateless."[42]

Problems faced by illegal immigrants

Illegal immigrants may expose themselves and citizens of the countries they enter to dangers and diseases while entering another country. Aside from the possibility that they may be intercepted and deported, illegal immigrants may be trafficked for exploitation including sexual exploitation and some illegal immigrants, are involved in criminal activity.


After the end of the legal international slave trade by the Europeans and the United States in the early 19th century, the illegal importation of slaves has continued, albeit at much reduced levels.[citation needed] For example, research at San Diego State University estimates that there are 2.4 million victims of human trafficking among illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States.[43] Although not as common as in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America[citation needed], some women are smuggled into the United States and Canada.[44]

People have been kidnapped or tricked into slavery to work as laborers, after entering the country, for example in factories. Those trafficked in this manner often face additional barriers to escaping slavery, since their status as illegal immigrants makes it difficult for them to gain access to help or services. For example, Burmese women trafficked into Thailand and forced to work in factories or as prostitutes may not speak the language and may be vulnerable to abuse by police due to their illegal immigrant status.[45] In some regions, people that are still en route to their destination country are also sometimes kidnapped, for example for ransom. In some instances, they are also tortured, raped, and killed if the requested ransom does not arrive. One case in point are the Eritrean migrants that are en route to Israel. A large number of them are captured in north Sinai (Egypt) and Eastern Sudan and held in the buildings in north Sinai.[46][47]


Some people forced into sexual slavery face challenges of charges of illegal immigration.[48]

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Western Europe is being confronted with a serious problem related to the sexual exploitation of illegal immigrants (especially from Eastern Europe), for the purpose of prostitution.[49]

In the United States human trafficking victims often pass through the porous Mexican border. In an effort to curb the spread of this affliction, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibáñez signed an accord in 2012 to expand prosecutions of criminals typically members of transnational gangs who engage in the trafficking of human beings between the two countries.[50]

Injury and Illness

The search for employment is central to undocumented international migration.[51] According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, undocumented immigrants to the United States often work in dangerous industries such as agriculture and construction.[52] A recent study suggests that the complex web of consequences resulting from undocumented status limits immigrant workers' ability to stay safe at work.[53] In addition to physical danger at work, the choice to immigrate for work often entails work-induced lifestyle factors which impact the physical, mental and social health of immigrants and their families.[54]


Each year there are several hundred illegal Immigrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border.[55] Death by exposure occurs in the deserts of Southwestern United States during the hot summer season.[56]

Problems faced by citizens from illegal immigration

Citizens of countries that are destinations for illegal immigrants may face numerous problems, including:

  • increased murder of citizens
  • rape of adult and minor female citizens[57]
  • rape of minor male citizens
  • religiously or culturally motivated terrorism
  • importation of novel diseases that the host population has little resistance to or diseases that were formerly eradicated in the host country
  • larger expenditures on welfare for a sub-population generally reluctant to integrate
  • increased economic competition from illegal immigrants
  • general reduction in respect for the law
  • possible gender imbalance due to male immigration surplus


Border crossing

Border patrol at sea by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
HMC Vigilant, one of several customs cutters of the UKBA, capable of speeds up to 26 knots departing Portsmouth Naval Base.

Immigrants from countries that do not have automatic visa agreements, or who would not otherwise qualify for a visa, often cross the borders illegally in some areas like the United States–Mexico border, the Mona Channel between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the Strait of Gibraltar, Fuerteventura, and the Strait of Otranto. Because these methods are illegal, they are often dangerous. Would-be immigrants have been known to suffocate in shipping containers,[58] boxcars,[59] and trucks,[60] sink in shipwrecks caused by unseaworthy vessels, die of dehydration[61] or exposure during long walks without water. An official estimate puts the number of people who died in illegal crossings across the U.S.-Mexican border between 1998 and 2004 at 1,954 (see immigrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border).

Human smuggling is the practice of intermediaries aiding illegal immigrants in crossing over international borders in financial gain, often in large groups. Human smuggling differs from, but is sometimes associated with, human trafficking. A human smuggler will facilitate illegal entry into a country for a fee, but on arrival at their destination, the smuggled person is usually free. Trafficking involves a process of using physical force, fraud, or deception to obtain and transport people.

Types of notorious human smugglers include Snakehead gangs present in mainland China (especially in Fujian) that smuggle laborers into Pacific Rim states (making Chinatowns frequent centers of illegal immigration) and "coyotes", who smuggle illegal immigrants to the Southwestern United States and have been known to abuse or even kill their passengers.[62] Sometimes illegal immigrants are abandoned by their human traffickers if there are difficulties, often dying in the process. Others may be victims of intentional killing.

Overstaying a visa

Many illegal immigrants are migrants who originally arrive in a country lawfully but overstay their authorized residence (overstaying a visa).[63][64] For example, most of the estimated 200,000 illegal immigrants in Canada (perhaps as high as 500,000) are refugee claimants whose refugee applications were rejected but who have not yet been expelled from the country.[65]

Another example is formed by children of foreigners born in countries observing jus soli ("right of territory"), such as was the case in France until 1994[66] and in Ireland until 2005.[67] In these countries, it was possible to obtain French or Irish nationality (respectively) solely by being born in France before 1994 or in Ireland before 2005[67] (respectively). At present, a French born child of foreign parents does not automatically obtain French nationality until residency duration conditions are met[citation needed]. Since 1 January 2005, a child born in Ireland does not automatically acquire Irish nationality unless certain conditions are met.[67]

Sham marriages

Another method is by entering into a sham marriage where the marriage is contracted into for purely immigration advantage by a couple who are not in a genuine relationship. Common reasons for sham marriages are to gain immigration,[68][69] residency, work or citizenship rights for one or both of the spouses, or for other benefits.

In the United Kingdom, those who arrange, participate in, or officiate over a sham marriage may be charged with a number of offenses, including assisting unlawful immigration and conspiracy to facilitate breach of immigration law.[70]

The United States has a penalty of a $250,000 fine and five-year prison sentence for such arrangements.[71] The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Justice Department say that they do not have accurate numbers on the rate of attempted marriage fraud.[72] In the 2009 fiscal year, 506 of the 241,154 petitions filed were denied for suspected fraud, a rate of 0.2%; seven percent were denied on other grounds.[73]

Legal and political status

See also: Illegal immigration to the United States, Illegal immigration in the United Kingdom, Australian immigration, Immigration to Canada, Illegal immigration to Pakistan, Illegal immigrants in Malaysia, Immigration to Chile.

Many countries have had or currently have laws restricting immigration for economic or nationalistic political reasons or others. Whether a person is permitted to stay in a country legally may be decided by quotas or point systems or may be based on considerations such as family ties (marriage, elderly mother, etc.). Exceptions relative to political refugees or to sick people are also common. In some countries, people born on national territory (henceforth not "immigrants") do not automatically obtain the nationality of their birthplace, and may have no legal title of residency.[74]

Most countries have laws requiring workers to have proper documentation, often intended to prevent or minimize the employment of illegal immigrants.[citation needed] However the penalties against employers are often small and the acceptable identification requirements vague, ill-defined and seldom checked or enforced, making it easy for employers to hire illegal labor.[citation needed] Where the minimum wage is several times the prevailing wage in the home country, employers sometimes pay less than the legal minimum wage or have unsafe working conditions, relying on the reluctance of illegal workers to report the violations to the authorities.[citation needed]

In response to the outcry following popular knowledge of the Holocaust, the newly established United Nations held an international conference on refugees to adopt the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees whereby refugees (legally defined to be people who are persecuted in their original country and then enter another country seeking safety) should be exempted from immigration laws.[75] It is, however, up to the countries involved to decide if a particular immigrant is a refugee or not, and hence whether they are subject to the immigration controls.

Article 13 on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares the right to leave any country, including one's own, to be a fundamental human right. The declaration does not state any right for an individual to enter a country other than his or her own. The same article also states a right to freely move within one's own country.

Illegal immigrants usually have no or very limited access to public health systems, proper housing, education and banks. Some immigrants forge identity documentats to get the access.[76]

Amnesties waive the "subject to deportation" clause associated with illegal immigrants.

By country or region


In 2007 around 44,000 Congolese were forced to leave Angola.[77] Since 2004, more than 400,000 illegal immigrants, almost all from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been expelled from Angola.[78][79]


Official government sources put the number of visa overstayers in Australia at approximately 50,000. This has been the official number of illegal immigrants for about 25 years and is considered to be low. Other sources have placed it at up to 100,000, but no detailed study has been completed to quantify this number, which could be significantly higher.

On 1 June 2013, the Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Act 2013 commenced. This new law puts the onus on businesses to ensure that their employees maintain the necessary work entitlements in Australia. The new legislation also enables the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship to levy infringement notices against business (AUD $15,300) and individual (AUD $3,060) employers on a strict liability basis - meaning that there is no requirement to prove fault, negligence or intention.[80][81]


There is also a significant number of Burmese illegal immigrants in Bangladesh. As of 2012, the Bangladesh government estimated about 500,000 illegal Burmese immigrants living across Bangladesh.[82]


Immigration in Bhutan by Nepalese settlers (Lhotshampa) began slowly towards the end of the 19th century. The government passed the Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1985 to clarify and try to enforce the Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1958 to control the flood of illegal immigration. Those individuals who could not provide proof of residency prior to 1958 were adjudged to be illegal immigrants. In 1991 and 1992, Bhutan expelled roughly 139,110 ethnic Nepalis, most of whom have been living in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal ever since. The United States has offered to resettle 60,000 of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin now living in U.N. refugee camps in Nepal. The Bhutanese government, even today, has not been able to sort the problem of giving citizenship to those people who are married to Bhutanese, even though they have been in the country for 40 years.[83]


File:Saopaulo paulista.jpg
Aerial view of São Paulo, where most illegal immigrants in Brazil live.

Brazil has long been part of international migration routes. In 2009, the government estimated the number of illegal immigrants at about 200,000 people; a Catholic charity working with immigrants said there were 600,000 illegal immigrants (75,000 of which from Bolivia). That same year, the Brazilian Parliament approved an amnesty, opening a six-month window for all foreigners to seek legalization irrespective of their previous standing before the law. Brazil had last legalized all immigrants in 1998; bilateral deals, one of which promoted the legalization of all reciprocal immigrants with Bolivia to date, signed in 2005, are also common.[84]

Illegal immigrants in Brazil enjoy the same legal privileges as native Brazilians regarding access to social services such as public education and the Brazilian public healthcare system.[84] A Federal Police operation investigated Chinese immigrants who traveled through six countries before arriving in São Paulo to work under substandard conditions in the textile industry.[85]

After signing the 2009 amnesty bill into law, President Lula said, in a speech, that "repression and intolerance against immigrants will not solve the problems caused by the economic crisis", thereby also harshly criticizing the "policy of discrimination and prejudice" against immigrants in developed nations.

An October 2009 piece from O Globo, quoting a UNDP study, estimates the number of illegal immigrants at 0.7 million,[86] and points out to a recent wave of xenophobia among the general populace.[87]


There is no credible information available on illegal immigration in Canada. Estimates range between 35,000 and 120,000 illegal immigrants in Canada.[88] James Bissett, a former head of the Canadian Immigration Service, has suggested that the lack of any credible refugee screening process, combined with a high likelihood of ignoring any deportation orders, has resulted in tens of thousands of outstanding warrants for the arrest of rejected refugee claimants, with little attempt at enforcement.[89] Refugee claimants in Canada do not have to attempt re-entry to learn the status of their claim. A 2008 report by the Auditor General Sheila Fraser stated that Canada has lost track of as many as 41,000 illegal immigrants.[90][91] This number was predicted to increase drastically with the expiration of temporary employer work permits issued in 2007 and 2008, which were not renewed in many cases because of the shortage of work due to the recession.[92]


Chile has recently become a new pole of attraction for illegal immigrants, mostly from neighboring Peru and Bolivia but also Ecuador, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Venezuela and Haiti. According to the 2002 national census, Chile's foreign-born foreign population has increased by 75% since 1992.[93]


China is building a security barrier along its border with North Korea to prevent the defectors or refugees from North Korea.[94] Also, many immigrants from Mongolia have tried to make it to China. There might be as many as 100,000 Africans in Guangzhou, mostly illegal overstayers.[95] To encourage people to report foreigners living illegally in China, the police is giving a 100 yuan reward to whistleblowers whose information successfully leads to an expulsion.[96]

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. An estimated 1,000,000 Haitians live and work in the Dominican Republic. The percentage of Haitians that have illegally immigrated to the Dominican Republic is not accurately known, and "many Dominicans have come to resent the influx of lower-paid workers from across the border and have sought to make their country less hospitable to noncitizens."[97]


ABVP against Bangladeshi illegal immigrants

It is estimated that several tens of millions of illegal immigrants live in India. Precise figures are not available, but the numbers run in tens of millions, at least 10 million are from Bangladesh, others being from Pakistan, Afghanistan and others.[98] During the Bangladesh Liberation War at least 10 million Bangladeshis crossed into India illegally to seek refuge from widespread rape and genocide.[99] According to Indian Home Ministry, at least 1.4 Million Bangladeshi crossed over into India in the last decade alone.[99] Samir Guha Roy of the Indian Statistical Institute called these estimates "motivatedly exaggerated". After examining the population growth and demographic statistics, Roy instead states that a significant numbers of internal migration is sometimes falsely thought to be immigrants. An analysis of the numbers by Roy revealed that on average around 91000 Bangladeshi nationals might have crossed over to India every year during the years 1981-1991 but how many of them where identified and pushed back is not known. It is possible that a large portion of these immigrants returned on their own to their place of origin.[100]

According to a pro-Indian scholar, the trip to India from Bangladesh is one of the cheapest in the world, with a trip costing around Rs.2000 (around $30 US), which includes the fee for the "Tour Operator". As Bangladeshis are cultural similar to the Bengali people in India, they are able to pass off as Indian citizens and settle down in any part of India to establish a future.,[99] for a very small price. This false identity can be bolstered with false documentation available for as little as Rs.200 ($3 US) can even make them part of the vote bank.[100]

Most of the Bengali speaking people deported from Maharashtra as illegal immigrants are originally Indian citizens from West Bengal. Police would demand 2000-2500 from each of the detained Bengali speaking people for their release. If they fail to pay that amount, they are kept behind the bar for 10–15 days following which they would be taken to border and pushed into Bangladesh.[100]

India is constructing barriers on its eastern borders to combat the surge of migrants. The Indo-Bangladeshi barrier is 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long. Presently, India is constructing a fence along the border to restrict illegal traffic from Bangladesh.[101] This obstruction will virtually isolate Bangladesh from India. The barrier's plan is based on the designs of the Israeli West Bank barrier and will be 3.6 m (11.8 ft) high. The stated aim of the fence is to stop infiltration of terrorists, prevent smuggling, and end illegal immigration from Bangladesh.[102][103]


Since late April 2007, the Iranian government has forcibly deported back to Afghanistan mostly unregistered (and some registered) Afghans living and working in Iran at a rate between 250,000 and 300,000 per year. The forceful evictions of the refugees, who lived in Iran and Pakistan for nearly three decades, are part of the two countries' larger plans to repatriate all Afghan refugees within a few years. Iran says that it will send 1,000,000 by next March, and Pakistan announced that all 2,400,000 Afghan refugees, most living in camps, must return home by 2009. Experts[who?] say it will be "disastrous" for Afghanistan.[104][105][106]


File:There Are No Illegal Children!.jpg
Demonstration against the expulsion of illegal immigrants and their families from Israel, Tel Aviv, 2009

Tens of thousands of migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, had crossed the Israeli border between 2009 and 2012.[107] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity."[108] In May 2012, Israel introduced a law which would allow illegal immigrants to be detained for up to three years, a measure that the Interior Ministry intended to stem the flow of Africans entering Israel across the desert border with Egypt.

Israel faces substantial illegal immigration of Arab workers from the Palestinian Authority territories, a migration that includes both workers seeking employment, and homosexuals escaping the social approbation of Arab society.[109][110][111][112]


Before the Libyan civil war, Libya was home to a large illegal Sub-Saharan African population which numbers as much as 2,000,000.[113] The mass expulsion plan to summarily deport all illegal foreigners was announced by then-current Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi in January 2008, "No resident without a legal visa will be excluded."[114][115]


There are an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants in Malaysia.[116] In January 2009, Malaysia banned the hiring of foreign workers in factories, stores and restaurants to protect its citizens from mass unemployment amid the late 2000s recession.[117] An ethnic Indian Malaysian was recently sentenced to whipping and 10 months in prison for hiring six illegal immigrants at his restaurant. "I think that after this, Malaysian employers will be afraid to take in foreign workers (without work permits). They will think twice", said immigration department prosecutor Azlan Abdul Latiff. "This is the first case where an employer is being sentenced to caning", he said. illegal immigrants also face caning before being deported.[118]


In the first six months of 2005, more than 120,000 people from Central America were deported, as compared to 2002, when for the entire year, only 130,000 were deported.[119] People of Han Chinese origin pay about $5,500 to smugglers to be taken to Mexico from Hong Kong. It is estimated that 2.4% of rejections for work permits in Mexico correspond to Chinese citizens.[120] In a 2010 news story, USA Today reported, "... Mexico's Arizona-style law requires local police to check IDs. And Mexican police freely engage in racial profiling and routinely harass Central American migrants, say immigration activists."[121]

Many women from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Central and South America take jobs at table dance establishments in large cities. The National Institute of Migration (INM) in Mexico raids strip clubs and deports foreigners who work without proper documentation.[122] In 2004, the INM deported 188,000 people at a cost of US$10 million.[123]

In September 2007, Mexican President Calderón harshly criticized the United States government for the crackdown on illegal immigrants, saying it has led to the persecution of immigrant workers without visas. "I have said that Mexico does not stop at its border, that wherever there is a Mexican, there is Mexico", he said.[124] However, Mexico has also deported US citizens, deporting 2,000 cases in 2015 and 1,243 in 2014.[125]

Illegal immigration of Cubans through Cancún tripled from 2004 to 2006.[126] In October 2008, Mexico tightened its immigration rules and agreed to deport Cubans who use the country as an entry point to the US. It also criticized US policy that generally allows Cubans who reach US territory to stay. Cuban Foreign Minister said the Cuban-Mexican agreement would lead to "the immense majority of Cubans being repatriated."[127]


In 2008, Nepal's Maoist-led government has initiated a major crackdown against Tibetan exiles with the aim to deport to China all Tibetans living illegally in the country. Tibetans started pouring in Nepal after a failed anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet in 1959.[128]


As of 2005, 2.1% of the population of Pakistan had foreign origins, however the number of immigrants population in Pakistan recently grew sharply. Immigrants from South Asia make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Pakistan. The five largest immigrant groups in Pakistan are in turn Afghans,[129] Bangladeshi,[130] Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Iranians, Indians, Sri Lankan, Burmese[131][132] and Britons[133] including a sizeable number of those of Pakistani origin. Other significant expatriate communities in the country are Armenians, Australians, Turks, Chinese,[134] Americans,[135] Filipinos,[136] Bosnians[137] and many others. Migrants from different countries of Arab world specially Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen are in thousands. Nearly all illegal migrants in Pakistan are Muslim refugees and they are accepted by the local population. There is no political support or legislation to deport these refugees from Pakistan.


It was estimated by Teresita Ang-See, a prominent leader and activist of the Chinese Filipino community, that by 2007, as much as 100,000 illegal immigrants from China are living in the Philippines, a tenth of the ethnic Chinese population. The latest influx has come in part because of Manila's move in 2005 to liberalise entry procedures for Chinese tourists and investors, a move that helped triple the number of Chinese visitors to 133,000 last year. Many of the new Chinese immigrants encounter hostility from many Filipinos, including Filipino-born Chinese, for being perceived as engaging in criminal activities and fraud.[138]


Russia experiences a constant flow of immigration. On average, 200,000 legal immigrants enter the country every year; about half are ethnic Russians from other republics of the former Soviet Union. In addition, there are an estimated 10–12 million unauthorized immigrants in the country.[139] There has been a significant influx of ethnic Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Tajiks, and Uzbeks into large Russian cities in recent years, which has been viewed very unfavorably by many citizens and contributed to nationalist sentiments.[140][141][142]

Many immigrant ethnic groups have much higher birth rates than native Russians, further shifting the balance. Some Chinese flee the overpopulation and birth control regulations of their home country and settle in the Far East and in southern Siberia. Russia's main Pacific port and naval base of Vladivostok, once closed to foreigners, today is bristling with Chinese markets, restaurants and trade houses.[143] This has been occurring a lot since the Soviet collapse.

Illegal border crossing is considered a crime, and captured illegal border crossers have been sentenced to prison terms. For example, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported in October 2008 the case of a North Korean who was detained after illegally crossing the Amur River from China. Considered by Russian authorities an "economic migrant", he was sentenced to 6 months in prison and was to be deported to the country of his nationality after serving his sentence, even though he may now risk an even heavier penalty there. That was just one of the 26 cases year-to-date of illegal entrants, of various nationalities, receiving criminal punishment in Amur Oblast.[144]

Saudi Arabia

In 2004, Saudi Arabia began construction of a Saudi–Yemen barrier between its territory and Yemen to prevent the unauthorized movement of people and goods into and out of the Kingdom. Anthony H. Cordesman labeled it a "separation barrier."[145] In February 2004, The Guardian reported that Yemeni opposition newspapers likened the barrier to the Israeli West Bank barrier,[146] while The Independent wrote "Saudi Arabia, one of the most vocal critics in the Arab world of Israel's 'security fence' in the West Bank, is quietly emulating the Israeli example by erecting a barrier along its porous border with Yemen".[147] Saudi officials rejected the comparison saying it was built to prevent infiltration and smuggling.[146]

Schengen Area

The Schengen Area is a multilateral agreement between 26 states in which they in most cases abolish the border control between themselves. These states include most of the EU countries, as well as the EEC countries Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Any person who is physically inside any of the Schengen states will usually be able to travel to any other Schengen state without hindrance from the law enforcement, even if he or she has no legal right to enter another Schengen Area member state. A person who wishes to immigrate illegally to a Schengen Area member state may therefore find it more practical to enter it through another member state. According to a BBC report from 2012, over 80% of illegal immigrants entering the European Union pass through Greece.[148]

EU countries that are not members of the Schengen Agreement are still committed to allow lawful entry by citizens of other EU countries;[149] they may however exercise border control at their discretion. This typically presents a significant hindrance to persons who are trying to enter those countries illegally. The Schengen Agreement does not regulate treatment of persons who enter the Schengen Area illegally. This is therefore left to the individual states, and other applicable international treaties. Illegal immigration to Schengen and to Europe in general was increasing sharply since approximately early 2014.[150] The main causes for this increase are the conflicts that followed the Arab Spring; in particular, the civil war in Syria has driven millions of people from their homes, and the disintegration of the Libyan government removed a major barrier for the African migrants.

Illegal immigration to some of the Schengen Area states will be discussed in the following.


In 2013, 11000 people attempted to go into Bulgaria via its border with Turkey.[151] Their aim is not believed by Bulgarian border officials to remain in Bulgaria, but to go to other European countries.[151] In November 2013 Bulgaria started building a razor wire fence on its Turkey border which was completed in 2015.[151]


Children born to noncitizens in France are not immigrants themselves, but they are considered foreigners under French law, until they reach the age of 18, at which time they automatically become citizens.[152] French citizenship is based in the idea of political unity; therefore, French citizenship may be more accessible than other EU countries, such as Germany and the UK. However, many French citizens feel that those who gain French citizenship should conform to the cultural aspects of French life.[153]

French law prohibits anyone from assisting or trying to assist "the entry, movement, or irregular stay of a foreigner in France." [154] France has an Immigration Ministry (L'immigration, l'intégration, l'asile et le développement solidaire) which begun functioning in 2007 under President Sarkozy. The government seek to combat smugglers who profit financially from moving immigrants into, through, and out of France, according to the Immigration Minister, Éric Besson.[152][154]

Many try to cross the English Channel from Calais to seek asylum or refugee status in Great Britain.[155] Truck drivers can be fined up to €2,500 if illegal immigrants are found on board.[156] An area of Calais known as "the Jungle" had a police raid in September 2009 to control illegal immigration.[155]

Non-governmental organizations, such as Secours Catholique and the Red Cross provide food, showers, and shelter to sans papiers who gather waiting to cross the Channel.



In 2014, Hungary registered 43000 asylum seekers and 80000 up to July 2015.[citation needed] In the summer of 2015 Hungary started building a 4m high fence along its 175 km border to neighbouring Serbia to keep out the tens of thousands illegal immigrants from the Middle East and migrants trying to reach the European Union.[157] The border was sealed on 15 September 2015 and the fence was the following day attacked by refugees and defended by riot police.[158]

With the Hungary-Serbia border closed, migrants then started heading to Croatia, but as Croatia led the migrants to the Hungary-Croatia border, Hungary then started the construction of a second fence along its border with Croatia on 18 September 2015.[159]


South Africa

No accurate estimates of the number of undocumented migrants living in South Africa exist.[160] Estimates that have been published vary widely. A 1996 Human Sciences Research Council study estimated that there were between 2.5 million and 4.1 million undocumented migrants in the country. In their 2008/09 annual report, the South African Police Service stated: "According to various estimates, the number of undocumented immigrants in South Africa may vary between three and six million people". Other estimates have put the figure as high as 10 million.[161] As of April 2015, Statistics South Africa's official estimate is of between 500,000 and one million undocumented migrants.[162] A large number of Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa as a result of instability in Zimbabwe, with many living as undocumented migrants in South Africa.[160][161][163] Sociologist Alice Bloch notes that migrants in South Africa have been the victims of xenophobia and violence, regardless of their immigration status.[163]

South Korea

According to the Republic of Korea Immigration Service, as of 31 December 2012, there were 177,854 illegal immigrants, which is 12.3% of 1,445,103 total foreign nationals who resided in South Korea. The top 10 home countries of those illegal immigrants were the People's Republic of China, Vietnam, Thailand, The Philippines, Mongolia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, The United States of America, respectively.[164]


Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, there are more refugees from Iraq . The United Nations estimates that nearly 2,200,000 Iraqis have fled the country since 2003,[165] with nearly 100,000 fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month.[166][167] Most ventured to Jordan and Syria, creating demographic shifts that have worried both governments. Refugees are mired in poverty as they are generally barred from working in their host countries.[168][169]

Syrian authorities worried that the new influx of refugees would limit the country's resources. Sources like oil, heat, water and electricity were said to be becoming scarcer as demand were rising.[170] On 1 October 2007, news agencies reported that Syria reimposed restrictions on Iraqi refugees, as stated by a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Under Syria's new rules, only Iraqi merchants, businessmen and university professors with visas acquired from Syrian embassies may enter Syria.[171][172][173]


Turkey receives many economic migrants from nearby countries such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, but also from North Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.[174][175] The Iraq War is thought to have increased the flow of illegal immigration into Turkey, and the global parties directly involved in the conflict have been accused of extending a less-helping hand than Turkey itself to resolve the precarious situation of immigrants stranded in passage.[176]

United Kingdom

As of 2009 there were between 550,000 and 950,000 illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom, with a figure of 750,000 as the most likely number.[177] The United Kingdom is a difficult country to reach as it is mostly located on one island and part of another, but traffickers in Calais, France have tried to smuggle illegal immigrants into the UK. Many illegal immigrants come from Africa and Asia. As of 2008 there were also many from Eastern Europe and Latin America having overstayed their visas.[178][179]

A 2012 study carried out by the University of Oxford's Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) has estimated that there were 120,000 irregular migrant children in the UK, of whom 65,000 were born in the UK to parents without legal status. According to the study these children are at risk of destitution, exploitation and social exclusion because of contradictory and frequently changing rules and regulations which jeopardize their access to healthcare, education, protection by the police and other public services.[180]

The Home Office estimated that 4,000 to 10,000 applications a year to stay in the UK are made on the basis of a sham marriage.[181]

United States

Illegal immigrant rights march for amnesty in downtown Los Angeles, California on May Day, 2006.

Approximately 11 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States.[182] Estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center show the number of illegal immigrants has declined to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12 million in March 2007.[183] The majority of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico.[184] Illegal immigration has long been controversial.

In 2007, President George W. Bush called for Congress to endorse his guest worker proposal, stating that illegal immigrants took jobs that Americans would not take.[185] The Pew Hispanic Center notes that while the number of legal immigrants arriving has not varied substantially since the 1980s, the number of illegal immigrants has increased dramatically and, since the mid-1990s, has surpassed the number of legal immigrants.[186] Penalties for employers of illegal immigrants, of $2,000–$10,000 and up to six months' imprisonment,[187] go largely unenforced.

Political groups like Americans for Legal Immigration[188] have been formed to demand enforcement of immigration laws and secure borders. ALIPAC has also called for "safe departure" border checkpoints, free of criminal checks.[189]

In a 2011 news story, Los Angeles Times reported,

... illegal immigrants in 2010 were parents of 5.5 million children, 4.5 million of whom were born in the U.S. and are citizens. Because illegal immigrants are younger and more likely to be married, they represented a disproportionate share of births—8% of the babies born in the U.S. between March 2009 and March 2010 were to at least one illegal immigrant parent.[190]

Immigration from Mexico to the United States has slowed in recent years.[191] This has been attributed to the slowing of the U.S. economy, the buildup in security along the border and increased violence on the Mexican side of the border.[192]

Puerto Rico

See Dominican immigration to Puerto Rico#Illegal immigration


An estimated 200,000 Colombians have fled the Colombian civil war and sought safety in Venezuela. Most of them lack identity documents and this hampers their access to services, as well as to the labor market. The Venezuelan government has no specific policies on refugees.[193][194]

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Further reading

  • Christine Bischoff, Falk, Francesca and Sylvia Kafehsy: Images of Illegalized Immigration. Towards a Critical Iconology of Politics. Bielefeld: transcript. November 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1537-1
  • 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. in Project Muse.
  • Vanessa B. Beasley, ed. Who Belongs in America?: Presidents, Rhetoric, And Immigration (2006).
  • Borjas, G.J. "The economics of immigration", Journal of Economic Literature, v 32 (1994), pp. 1667–717.
  • Cull, Nicholas J. and Carrasco, Davíd, ed. Alambrista and the US-Mexico Border: Film, Music, and Stories of illegal Immigrants U. of New Mexico Press, 2004. 225 pp.
  • De La Torre, Miguel A., "Trails of Terror: Testimonies on the Current Immigration Debate", Orbis Books, 2009.
  • Dowling, Julie A., and Jonathan Xavier Inda, eds. Governing Immigration Through Crime: A Reader. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.
  • Thomas J. Espenshade; "Unauthorized Immigration to the United States" Annual Review of Sociology. Volume: 21. 1995. pp 195+.
  • Flores, William V (2003). "New Citizens, New Rights: illegal Immigrants and Latino Cultural Citizenship". Latin American Perspectives. 30 (2): 87–100.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Griswold, Daniel T.; "Willing Workers: Fixing the Problem of Illegal Mexican Migration to the United States", Trade Policy Analysis no. 19, 15 October 2002.
  • Inda, Jonathan Xavier. Targeting Immigrant: Government, Technology, and Ethics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
  • Kennedy, Marie and Chris Tilly, 'They Work Here, They Live Here, They Stay Here!': French immigrants strike for the right to work—and win. Dollars & Sense, July/August 2008.
  • Nicholas Laham; Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Immigration Reform Praeger Publishers. 2000.
  • Lisa Magaña, Straddling the Border: Immigration Policy and the INS (2003)
  • Marquardt, Marie Friedmann, Timothy Steigenga, Philip Williams and Manuel Vasquez, Living "Illegal": The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration, The New Press, 2011.
  • Mohl, Raymond A. "Latinization in the Heart of Dixie: Hispanics in Late-twentieth-century Alabama" Alabama Review 2002 55(4): 243–274. ISSN 0002-4341 9-4894945651.
  • Ngai, Mae M. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004), 90952-15665.
  • Ngai, Mae M. "The Strange Career of the Illegal Alien: Immigration Restriction and Deportation Policy in the United States, 1921–1965" Law and History Review 2003 21(1): 69–107. ISSN 0738–2480 Fulltext in History Cooperative.
  • Mireille Rosello; "Representing illegal immigrants in France: From Clandestins to L'affaire Des Sans-Papiers De Saint-Bernard" Journal of European Studies, Vol. 28, 1998 959525126.
  • Dowell Myers (2007), Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America, Russell Sage Foundation, ISBN 978-0-87154-636-4.
  • Tolley, Brett "Dying to Get In" Documentary (2006) Undocumented Immigration Documentary.
  • Tranaes, T. and Zimmermann, K.F. (eds), Migrants, Work, and the Welfare State, Odense, University Press of Southern Denmark, (2004).
  • Venturini, A. Post-War Migration in Southern Europe. An Economic Approach Cambridge University Press (2004).
  • Vicino, Thomas J. Suburban Crossroads: The Fight for Local Control of Immigration Policy Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013.
  • Zimmermann, K.F. (ed.), European Migration: What Do We Know? Oxford University Press, (2005).
  • Range, Peter R., Europe faces an immigrant tide National Geographic Magazine May 1993.