Migrants vs. Immigrants


Salama Moussa provides a timely reminder of the difference:

Migrants are pushed by local disturbances to seek work and survival in other lands, regardless of the land, as long as it welcomes them. Immigrants have a fixed destination and while they seek a “better” life, the definition of “better” is often broader than mere survival.

He also mentions a request difference in orientation:

Immigration carries with it the hope of integration, assimilation and acculturation. This process is rarely painless but almost always beneficial, for the immigrants and the societies that receive them.

Migrants carry the hope of returning to their homelands once the emergencies subside or sufficient material wealth is accumulated. For them assimilation and acculturation are both highly undesirable, as they would render the migrants alien when they return to their homelands.

The categories can be fluid, depending on the reception and success of either group. But he warns of the loud megaphones that often accompany the pro- and con- on either extreme of the national debate:

Matters are made worse by leaders on all sides. Some package easy national solutions indistinguishable from simple bigotry. Others are unable to see that tolerance should not be extended to habits and ideas that burst the old lands into flames.

The answer, he says, is to encourage immigration and stem migration. The latter is to help strengthen the countries of origin, that there be no impetus to leave.

Of the former, [my comment] every nation must have a responsible immigration policy, which can legitimately wax or wane over time according to national circumstances. But Salama Moussa’s take is spot-on:

The second is done by adherence to the bedrock values that have made many countries, especially in the West, a haven to the beleaguered.

Chief among those values is tolerance. The root of that very word is Latin for “supporting” and “enduring”.

This means that while accepting new immigrants we must assert that the values that opened the doors for them can not be subverted by any beliefs they bring along, and that we will work to see our values endure.

As we transition back to Egypt following a period of time in the United States, my mind is still taken a bit my American issues. Hopefully Egyptian and Middle East commentary will return over time, but glad to share insight helpful to either context.

Like immigrants and migrants and many others, our ‘sense of belonging’ is also fluid.


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