Opposition to immigration

Opposition to immigration exists in most nation-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 nation-state or territory to another nation-state or territory where they are not citizens. It is important to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration in considering opposition to immigration. Illegal immigration is immigration in contravention of a nation's immigration laws. [1] 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, threats of infectious diseases 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.

Major anti-immigration arguments

Further information: Criticism of multiculturalism

Loss of national identity

Some critics of immigration argue that immigration may distort the national identity of the native population, as, in many countries, the identity of the nation-state is connected to culture.

Loss of indigenous rights

An indigenous population has a set of implicit or explicit indigenous rights based on their linguistic and historical ties to a particular territory. Immigration which affects an indigenous population may be perceived to infringe on such rights.

Loss of national, cultural and religious unity

National unity arguments emphasise on language use and isolation: if immigrants isolate themselves in their own communities and refuse to learn the local language, this might eventually undermine regional and national unity. A relationship between national unity and acceptance of diversity was suggested in a 2015 University of Oxford study, in which it was also claimed 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.[5]

Unity arguments can also be extended to the cultural and religious unity of a region or a country. Critics also point out that if immigrants fail to assimilate into the original population, or are not given the opportunity to intagrate, they may form ghettos where they live according to their own culture, rather than assimilating to the native culture. The term Parallel society was used in Germany to describe this phenomenon.

Increased economic and social competition

Economic arguments concentrate on competition for employment, and the higher burdens that some groups of immigrants may impose on social welfare systems, housing and public schools. 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.[6][7] Another economic argument against skilled immigration from developing to developed countries is that it may lead to a brain drain in the developing countries.[8]

Scarcity of natural resources

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.

Immigrant crime

Arguments from immigrant criminality point out that crime rates can be expected to be higher among some immigrant populations, and thus that immigration of specific demographic groups will predictably lead to an increase in 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.[9] 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%.[10]

Decrease in national security and military unity

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.

Infectious diseases

Immigrants may stem from countries or regions with a different infectious disease epidemiology,[11] and this may perceived as posing a threat to a local population.

Determinants of opposition to immigration

Level of education

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".[12] 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.[12] 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.[13]

Age, country of origin, and gender

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).[14]

Opposition to immigration by country or region


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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.)[22]


A January 2004 survey by Spanish newspaper El País showed that the "majority" of Spaniards believe immigration was too high.[23] 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.[24]


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

In the UK the British National Party made opposition to immigration one of their central policies in the 2010 general election.[25] The anti-mass-immigration party, UKIP, have proposed setting up a Migration Control Commission, tasked with bringing down net migration.[26] 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.[26]

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.[27] 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.



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.[28]



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.[29] 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.[30]

Mexico has very strict laws pertaining to both illegal and legal immigrants.[31] 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

Main article: Nativism (politics)
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.[32]

Immigration again became a major issue from the 1990s onward, with burgeoning illegal immigration, particularly by Mexicans crossing the Southwestern 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.[33]

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.[34]
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.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37]

See also


  1. 1 2 Kozak, Krystof. "Are Immigrants Disloyal? The Case of Mexicans in the U.S.". European Association for American Studies. European Association for American Studies. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  2. Marisa Abrajano; Zoltan L. Hajnal (2015). White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics. Princeton University Press. pp. 31–35.
  3. Ray Hall; Paul White (2005). Europe's Population. Routledge. p. 136.
  4. 1 2 Higham, John (1963). Strangers in the land: patterns of American nativism, 1860–1925. New York: Atheneum. OCLC 421752.
  5. Roth, Christopher; Sumarto, Sudarno (2 November 2015). "Social Spillovers of a School Building Program: Evidence on Improved Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Religious Relationships" via papers.ssrn.com.
  6. Reimann, Anna (29 April 2011). "Putting a price on foreigners: strict immigration laws 'Save Denmark Billions'". spiegel.de. Spiegel Online. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  7. "Denmark's immigration laws save country £6 billion". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  8. Makasa, E. (1 January 2008). "The Human Resource crisis in the Zambian Health Sector – a discussion paper". 35 (3). doi:10.4314/mjz.v35i3.46522 via www.ajol.info.
  9. Ellis, Lee; Beaver, Kevin M.; Wright, John (2009). Handbook of crime correlates. London: Academic. ISBN 9781282168510.
  10. Skarðhamar, Torbjørn; Thorsen, Lotte R.; Henriksen, Kristin (2011). Kriminalitet og straff blant innvandrere og øvrig befolkning (pdf). Statistics Norway.
  11. "Innvandrere og smittevern (inkludert adoptivbarn)". Folkehelseinstituttet.com (in Norwegian). Folkehelseinstituttet. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  12. 1 2 d'Hombres, Beatrice; Nunziata, Luca. "Wish You Were Here? Quasi-Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Education on Self-Reported Attitude toward Immigrants". European Economic Review. doi:10.1016/j.euroecorev.2016.02.007.
  13. Malhotra, Neil; Margalit, Yotam; Mo, Cecilia Hyunjung (2013-04-01). "Economic Explanations for Opposition to Immigration: Distinguishing between Prevalence and Conditional Impact". American Journal of Political Science. 57 (2): 391–410. doi:10.1111/ajps.12012. ISSN 1540-5907.
  14. SCB. 2015. Partisympatiundersökningen. http://www.scb.se/sv_/Hitta-statistik/Statistik-efter-amne/Demokrati/Partisympatier/Partisympatiundersokningen-PSU/12436/12443/Behallare-for-Press/391417/
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  17. Ben-Moshe, Danny (July 2001). "One Nation and the Australian far right". Patterns of Prejudice. Taylor and Francis. 35 (3): 24–40. doi:10.1080/003132201128811205.
  18. Scalmer, Sean (June 2001). "From contestation to autonomy: the staging and framing of anti-Hanson contention". Australian Journal of Politics and History. Wiley. 47 (2): 209–224. doi:10.1111/1467-8497.00228.
  19. Bar-On, Tamir (2013), "Neither right, nor left?", in Bar-On, Tamir, Rethinking the French new right alternatives to modernity, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 39–41, ISBN 9781135966263. Preview.
  20. 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. Springer: 1–25. doi:10.1007/s11205-015-1037-z.
  21. Fetzer, Joel S. (2000). Public attitudes toward immigration in the United States, France, and Germany. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521786799.
  22. Mayer, Nonna; Perrineau, Pascal (July 1992). "Why do they vote for Le Pen?". European Journal of Political Research. Wiley. 22 (1): 123–141. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.1992.tb00308.x.
  23. Staff writer (23 June 2004). "Immigration time-bomb". Expatica. Bram Lebo. Archived from the original on 28 May 2006. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  24. Sabater, Albert; Domingo, Andreu (Spring 2012). "A new immigration regularization policy: the settlement program in Spain". International Migration Review. Wiley. 46 (1): 191–220. doi:10.1111/j.1747-7379.2012.00884.x.
  25. Staff writer (23 April 2010). "BNP call for end to immigration from Muslim nations". BBC News. BBC.
  26. 1 2 Wilkinson, Michael (5 May 2015). "Immigration policies: General Election 2015 and how each party will tackle it". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group.
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  34. Peters, Jeremy W. (November 25, 2014). "Obama's Immigration Action Reinvigorates Tea Party". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
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  37. Mink, Gwendolyn (1986). Old labor and new immigrants in American political development: union, party, and state, 1875-1920. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801418631.

Further reading

United States


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