Opposition to immigration

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Opposition to immigration exists 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 nation-state where they are not citizens. It is also 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.

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, decreased protection against infectious diseases and, in some cases, the distortion of national identity.[citation needed] There may also be a psychological component to prejudice against immigrants, with researchers showing that people are biased against immigrants partly because they find immigrants difficult to think about.[2]

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

Major anti-immigration arguments

Critics argue that the national identity of a nation-state is reflected in claims regarding ethnicity: and that 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.[citation needed]

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

Economic arguments concentrate on competition for employment, and the burdens that many immigrants impose on social welfare systems and public schools.[citation needed] For example, Denmark's strict immigration law reform has saved the country 6.7 billion euros compared to previous more permissive approach, according to The Integration Ministry April 2011 report.[4][5] Another argument against immigration is that it may lead to a brain drain.[citation needed]

Environmental arguments include the increased consumption of scarce resources, overpopulation and inefficiencies related to cases where immigration is to countries that are net importers of food and essential commodities.[citation needed]

Arguments from immigrant criminality point out that crime rate tends to be higher among immigrant populations[citation needed], thus high immigration could lead to increased crime - The Handbook of Crime Correlates (2009), a review of studies of correlates with crime, states that most studies on immigrants have found higher rates of crime compared to domestic population.[6] For example, the incidence of felonies among immigrants in Oslo from Kosovo, Morocco, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Chile reached more than 2% in all these groups. In comparison, the incidence in the non-immigrant population was about 0.7%.[7]


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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] She was imprisoned by the government on political corruption charges, which were dropped after her imprisonment.

EU & Europe

Opposition to high levels of legal immigration is associated with many right-wing groups in the EU. The issue flared up in 2015 with large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and Africa making dangerous trips to Europe, with many deaths en route. With high levels of unemployment within the EU and the widespread belief that immigrants 'steal jobs' from natives, parties opposed to immigration have done very well in elections. Such parties have entered the government in Austria, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Slovakia, and have become a major factor in French politics.[12]

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.[13] The results show that Malta and Cyprus have the strongest perception of socio-economic threat from immigrants, followed by Austria, Great Britain, 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.[14] 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.)[15]


A January 2004 survey by Spanish newspaper El País showed that the "majority" of Spaniards believe immigration was too high.[16] 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.[17]


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 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 right-wing "National Renewal Party", known as PNR, has targeted the immigration and ethnic minorities issues.[18][19]

United Kingdom

In the UK the British National Party have made opposition to immigration one of their central policies.[20] The anti-mass-immigration party, UKIP, have proposed setting up a Migration Control Commission, tasked with bringing down net migration.[21] The Conservative Party have 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.[22]


India has anti-Immigrant parties at the state level. The most common anti-Immigrant parties are there in the state of Maharashtra, where the 2 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.[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.[23] 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.[24]

Mexico has very strict laws pertaining to both illegal and legal immigrants.[25] 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

Anti-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 in 1798 restricted the rights of immigrants. 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 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. Major restrictions became law in the 1920s and sharply cut the inflow until 1965, when they ended.[26] The federal government took charge of finding and deporting illegal aliens, which it still does.[27]

Immigration became a major issue again from the 1990s, with burgeoning illegal immigration, particularly Mexicans crossing the Southwest border, and others who overstayed their visitor visas.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.[28]

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 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.[29]

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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]

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. Rubin, M., Paolini, S., & Crisp, R. J. (2010). A processing fluency explanation of bias against migrants. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 21-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.09.006
  3. John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (1963).
  4. "Putting a Price on Foreigners: Strict Immigration Laws 'Save Denmark Billions' - SPIEGEL ONLINE". spiegel.de. Retrieved 14 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Denmark's immigration laws save country £6 billion - Telegraph". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 14 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Handbook of Crime Correlates; Lee Ellis, Kevin M. Beaver, John Wright; 2009; Academic Press
  7. http://www.ssb.no/emner/03/05/rapp_201121/rapp_201121.pdf
  8. Richard Jensen, "Comparative Nativism: The United States, Canada And Australia, 1880s-1910s," Canadian Issues / Thèmes Canadiens, pring 2009, pp 45–55
  9. "Pauline Hanson's One Nation: Extreme Right, Centre Party or Extreme Left?" Labour History, Nov 2005, Issue 89, pp 101-119
  10. Danny Ben-Moshe, "One Nation and the Australian Far Right," Patterns of Prejudice," Sept 2001, Vol. 35 Issue 3, pp 24-40
  11. 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
  12. Tamir Bar-On (2013). Rethinking the French New Right: Alternatives to Modernity. Routledge. pp. 39–41.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Marozzi, Marco (2015). "Construction, Robustness Assessment and Application of an Index of Perceived Level of Socio-economic Threat from Immigrants: A Study of 47 European Countries and Regions". Social Indicators Research. doi:10.1007/s11205-015-1037-z.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Joel S. Fetzer, Public attitudes toward immigration in the United States, France, and Germany (2000).
  15. Nonna Mayer, and Pascal Perrineau. "Why do they vote for Le Pen?." European Journal of Political Research (1992) 22#1 pp: 123-141.
  16. "Immigration time-bomb". Expatica. 23 June 2004. Retrieved 11 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Albert Sabater, and Andreu Domingo, "A new immigration regularization policy: The settlement program in Spain." International Migration Review (2012) 46#1 pp: 191-220.
  18. M. Margarida Marques, "Attitudes and threat perception: unemployment and immigration in Portugal." South European Society and Politics (1999) 4#3 pp: 184-205.
  19. João Peixoto, Catarina Sabino, and Alexandre Abreu, "Immigration policies in Portugal: limits and compromise in the quest for regulation." European Journal of Migration and Law (2009) 11#2 pp: 179-197.
  20. BNP call for end to immigration from Muslim nations BBC News, 23 April 2010
  21. UKIP - Immigration policy Daily Telegraph, 05 May 2015
  22. Conservatives - Immigration policy Daily Telegraph, 05 May 2015
  23. Detienen en seis meses a 120 mil indocumentados de Centroamérica
  24. "TV en vivo por internet y capítulos en línea - azteca.com". tvazteca.com. Retrieved 14 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. American Chronicle | Illegal Alien Amnesty, Guest Workers, International Law and Politics
  26. John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (1955)
  27. Mae M. Ngai, "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 pp: 69-108.
  28. "New INS Report | Center for Immigration Studies". cis.org. Retrieved 14 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Peters, Jeremy W. (25 November 2014). "Obama's Immigration Action Reinvigorates Tea Party". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 29 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Catherine Collomp, "Unions, Civics, and National Identity," Labor History, Fall 1988, Vol. 29#4 pp 450-74
  31. A. T. Lane, "American Trade Unions, Mass Immigration and the Literacy Test: 1900–1917," Labor History, Winter 1984, Vol. 25#1 pp 5-25
  32. 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)